when we form scary shit in our heads

First off, I want to congratulate myself, for finally getting back to my “running habit” after 3 months in Jakarta. YEY!

And that’s the problem. RUNNING IN JAKARTA

SG is the safest place on earth. Maybe Japan has something to say about that, but I’ve never been a resident there, so I’m sticking with my statement. I see no problem running there at 12am, 1am…and not to mention the roads. During this time, you can run almost anywhere. The pavements are safe enough that you don’t need to stare at it as you pump your feet. It’s safe to run anytime, anywhere because you don’t have to think about someone accosting you even at fist point levels.

Hence I consider running in the streets of Jakarta an “adventure”. So far I’ve only seen one guy who was running along the streets (he happens to be staying nearby and we got a chance to talk afterwards). Why would people want to run when there are no sidewalks?

But no, I have to make do. There’s a cemetery next to my new place. I only have ghosts to scare me off. Who cares if it’s already 8.45pm?

TAMAN RASUNA SAID | The road most traveled by motorists, pedestrians, and vendors. Uneven and rough pavements ahead
TAMAN RASUNA SAID | The road most traveled by motorists, pedestrians, and vendors. Uneven and rough pavements ahead

The first 35min was something: vendors and ojeks stood by the uneven “sidewalks.” Construction sites are present almost every block. Malls and buildings abound. All these make it impossible to find a rhythm. And when finally, FINALLY, I got to a part where the road is decent, I find no lights apart from a bonfire of trash near a nice-looking building. I had to run through that smoke.

And did I mention, since I wish to time my run, and I essentially don’t know where to run, I was holding my iPhone the whole time? (not my best decision, given my track record with iPhones overseas).

Some time at the 35th minute mark, I realized I’m lost. I searched the sky for my north star (signage on a high-rise), but everything was unfamiliar. Google Maps is directing me to a place that looked shady. OK, better ask the security guard. He pointed me to the same direction as Google Maps.

Sometimes, don’t follow technology.

Most times, gut-feel is the best northstar.

So it started out fine. I saw the fire station next to a mosque where an excursion bus was unloading women and kids who are wearing the same thing. An establishment paid to provide safety and a place of worship? This isn’t shady! Then I, along with the women and kids, had to go through a smallish hole in the wall.

That should have already made me rethink my decisions in life and go back.

Yet I trudged on. This is what Google Maps says! Anyway, this looks like the fringes of a “very nice” squatters area (slums) in manila. After this it should be fine. Google Maps won’t give me directions to the backstreets of backstreets! Nevermind that the huge lot on my right looks and smells like a garbage dump.

Now clutching my iPhone firmly while concealing it in my pocket, I continued on. Google Maps says go right to a small alley. Um…no lights? But hey, it can’t be that far away anyway (this, coming from someone who has no idea how far 1km is K). A kid was walking towards me, then suddenly ran the other way. Why?

BOOM! A firecracker just exploded inches from me!

I remembered I stopped paying my medical insurance in SG

But hey, I already made it this far. Sunk cost. Continue on.

The alleys got narrower and darker, and a big black rat casually passed in front of me. OK that is a sign that I am where I should not be. This is the point where I started getting scared.

Thoughts included:

  1. I can’t afford to buy another phone right now, but how will I know where to go???
  2. How will Joey look for me if something bad happens?
  3. Thank God I can pack a kick and punch
  4. This is a Muslim country, and Islam is one of the peaceful religions on earth. BELIEVE THIS NOW MORE THAN EVER

There were a lot of mom-and-pop shops, with people hanging out. I needed to manage my fear. They should not see or feel my fear.

I was at my most attentive that night, on high alert and apprehensive: are the two middle aged woman hanging out the store looking at me with interest? Is the group of young, shirtless men staring at me? Is the shopkeeper regarding me suspiciously? Believe the world is good, and only good things will happen tonight.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally reached what looked like a big road. I asked another security guard where Joey’s condo is. Google Maps was right.

While walking down the long driveway leading up to the building, I rewound in my head what I walked through. Truth is, I was being paranoid. Those people didn’t even spare me a glance. I was the one that kept looking at them suspiciously, looking for signs of violence, squaring my body in preparation for attack.

What I should have done was give the people the respect they deserve and think the best of them, especially as I was in their turf. I really believe people are good, intrinsically good. But we also have to treat them in a way that signals to them that we think they are good, because most of the time, we, as humans, are only just defensive of other people’s prejudices against us.

Wish we lived in a world that assumes the best of people, regardless of social standing and appearance. Then probably I would not have missed out on appreciating that place. It’s a culture that very few foreigners get a glimpse of (it’s not MJ’s favella from Brazil)

I won’t be a hypocrite though; I probably won’t take that route alone and at night again (better not to tempt fate and all that shit). But if given a chance to be friends with someone from there, show me around, ima take it. I want to erase my irrational fears. It’s the only way forward


UPDATE 2015.07.09 | Ran again today and finally found a decent track Jelson told me about!

Along some sort of river walk that leads to the cemetery
Along some sort of river walk that leads to the cemetery

3 thoughts on “when we form scary shit in our heads”

  1. That’s one hellava story you have (i don’t know, i should laugh or sad). I never knew that running at night in jakarta would be that challenging. My question is, why didn’t you joining a running community? for example, Indorunner, they have routine schedule for night running.


    1. Oh, i didn’t know such groups existed 😂. After 5yrs if living in sg, im so used to running anywhere, anytime, no groups needed, that running in a track is foreign to me.

      I did ask my indonesia friends where i can run (at night) and they can’t think of anything haha

      Just googled “indorunner jakarta,” and it’s in bahasa indonesia 😅. Know of any other groups?


      1. So sorry, the only running community i know, which has night run routine schedule, is Indorunners. I think you should join them, they are all good people and very welcoming to new members. This group is not only for the Indonesian people but everyone who loves to run, after all, ran alone in the street of Jakarta is not recommended, especially for newcomers.

        here is their schedule : https://www.facebook.com/notes/indo-runners/jadwal-lari-seluruh-indo-runners-regional-nasional-dan-internasional/10151576976983482
        if you want, you could join that group for further information.

        Liked by 1 person

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