Sunday, January 04, 2004

The Soul of a City

The Soul of a City

I've been spending the weekend preparing for my lectures for the coming weeks. Looks like teaching has suddenly become my fulltime job, at least for this month. In between my weekly teaching engagements, I hope to take a much-needed break by doing some travelling.

I haven't done that much travelling during my two year stay here, except for business-related trips to places like Bandung, Surabaya and Makassar. Everytime I go on such trips, I am so terribly tied up with meetings and presentations that I rarely have time to really loiter around those places and observe the people in their daily lives.

It's also different when you are travelling with colleagues: Your usually preoccupations are where to eat next and which nightspot to go to after work. I never get a chance to sit in a local coffee shop and spend some time reading a book.

Every town or city has a different feeling and atmosphere. It is that feeling--the soul of the city--that I like to tap into. I've spent years trying to penetrate the soul of Jakarta; I'm still not certain that I've truly understood this city, though I've tried my very best. I will be leaving Jakarta for good at the end of the month but I believe I'll still be dropping by often, either for business or pleasure.

I will suffer from withdrawal symptoms back in KL. My remedy will be to watch Peter Weir's Year of Living Dangerously again and again to reexperience the chaotic beauty that is Jakarta. (Doesn't matter if the film wasn't exactly shot in Indonesia--the Phillipines looks similar enough).

Maybe it is time for me to rediscover the soul of Kuala Lumpur. I have lots of memories hidden there too, in every nook and corner of the city. KL looks spankingly new and efficient these days with its many tollbooths and highways, LRTs and monorails. I hope it hasn't lost its soul.

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