The Adventures of a Jamaican in Indonesia

YardEdge welcomes guest blogger Diana O’Gilvie for this contribution about her adventures as a Jamaican living in Indonesia….

After living in Jakarta, Indonesia for over three months now. I have noticed some similarities between Jamaicans and Indonesians. I moved here to teach English in a private school for one year.

One thing that stands out is that island life is the same no matter where in the world you may be. The coconut water still tastes the same and sea breeze is just as sweet. There is abundant sunshine and smiles are aplenty.

Indonesians double up on words for more effect. For instance, “baiik-baik” or “good good,” So a typical greeting in Indonesian would go something like this:

“Apa kabar? Baik-baik saja.”

“How are you? I am fine/good.”

In Jamaican:

“Wha gwaan? or How di do?”

“Good-good!” This reply is normally followed by a smile and a wave.

“Hati-hati” means “be careful” in Indonesian. You see this sign mostly around road construction or traffic signs. This is not to be confused with “hotty-hotty” or a nice looking girl in Jamaican.

Another example is “pagi-pagi” or “soon soon ah mawning” or as my Granny used to say, “before day mawning”. Pagi-pagi is during the hours of 4am-6am. “Orang-orang” means people. “Orang” by itself means person. “Pelang-pelang” means slowly.

Minibuses do not move until dem full. This is not a pleasant similarity, in fact it really annoys me and I am seriously thinking of buying a Vespa or a motorbike to commute to work. Jakarta is infamous for its terrible traffic. I have to give myself one hour and fifteen minutes because of traffic and the minibus stopping for 20-30 minutes to pick up more passengers. If I take a taxi, I am at school in fifteen minutes.

They trick out their buses with large speakers that play music loudly and they print the bus’ name the windshield. Names like “Bad Boy” and my favorite, “Diana Trans” When I saw this, I was immediately transported back to Half-Way-Tree circa 1994 when buses like “Exterminator” used to be so popular with the school kids.

Indonesians are also strict about saying, “Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.”

Respect for elders is paramount. Jamaicans will call older women “Mammy” or “Auntie” in Indonesian it’s “Ibu” or “mother as a sign of respect.

If you don’t walk fast when crossing the street, a car will hit you. Here, pedestrians are moving targets.

They use umbrellas to shelter them from the sun, and it’s not just the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The best thing about Indonesia?

The fruits are the same! Imagine my delight when went for an afternoon stroll in my new neighborhood of Kelapa Gading and I saw sweet sop trees, sour sop trees and mango trees.

At the fruit markets I can get jack fruit, papaw (papaya) and ota etie apples. The mangos here are totally different from what we have at home, but as an avid mango lover, I am enjoying discovering mango species.

Keep up with Diana’s Indonesian ventures on her blog, love2travelwritefilm and on Twitter


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  1. Karen Henry
    February 27, 2018 at 4:40 am — Reply

    Thanks Diana. I’m going there in March for a short holiday, so I might have to contact you for some tips 🙂

  2. Karin
    June 14, 2012 at 9:52 am — Reply

    Yup, Jamaicans are all over the world having adventures!

  3. June 13, 2012 at 8:57 am — Reply

    It’s so great to learn about what Jamaicans encounter on their overseas travels and how it compares to Jamaica! Love it!!

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