Indonesia Recap: A Lesson in Group Dynamics

Borobudur Temple

Borobudur Temple

Traffic, and scooters everywhere…just like you read about, and how some of the travelers we met had described their encounters in Indonesia.  And, our two week stint there was starting off just the same, in the back of a taxi cab, sitting in traffic, scooters zipping by.  This experience developed and yielded confusion as the traffic dissipated, the driver accelerated, muttered quickly ‘this is a one way street, but the police do not enforce always,’ and proceeded to flawlessly maneuver the car around (and through) oncoming vehicles.  In this forty-five minute car ride we: drove on the incorrect side of the road, went down a one-way street, ignored all stop signs, yielded into oncoming traffic… you get the picture.  All during this ride the most reactive individuals were Laurel and I, the ones in the back of the taxi.  Not one driver around us seemed phased by our driver’s actions, in fact they were participating in this same behavior.  Even the beeps and honks of the horns did not seem to carry displeasure in their colleagues driving.  My curiosity peaked, I made it my mission over our two weeks in Indonesia to decode the “reckless and infuriating” ways of commuting through these overcrowded streets.

In two weeks of travel through Indonesia we logged ten plus hours or some three hundred miles of riding in a car.  These numbers pale in comparison to the 3100 miles we drove through New Zealand, but the experiences were 180 degrees apart.  There were taxi rides, day tours, a pickup from our Airbnb host, a ride from a friend of the guy that worked at the hotel where we were staying, maybe?  Getting around this way was convenient (eh?), cheap, and a decision we were immediately happy with rather than renting our own car. The burning question in my head from that Tuesday afternoon drive from the airport became ‘how does everyone maintain such calm composure’ during such a seemingly chaotic event?  Surely, if this same traffic scenario unfolded in the states there would be cursing, hand gestures, screeching horns, and accidents.  But, there was none of this, quite the opposite actually.  During our stint in Bali and Java we encountered zero accidents, no yelling, just a lot of honking.

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These behaviors certainly necessitate a certain level of awareness and collaboration to be effective, and maybe they do help to mitigate both accidents and potential stressors.  But, I suppose one could make the argument that if rules of the road were followed in the first place all of the above behaviors would be completely unnecessary.  Regardless, it was an awesome experience being the observer in these situations, and helped me to develop a certain calm that I hope to carry with me moving forward.

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