I just returned, on a business trip, to the city I used to love and hate: Geneva. This emotional return provoked me to think why Geneva was not included in the CNN’s recent top 10 list of most hated cities in the world, while Jakarta ranks 7 due to its traffic congestion, pollution, poverty and crimes. In my opinion, Geneva deserved a place in the list.
The comparison between Jakarta and Geneva is like this: When you go to Geneva you will fall in love at the first sight, due to her beauty.
The city was so beautiful and charming when I visited it for the first time during spring time back in 1995. Since then I was dreaming that maybe one day I might stay there for a longer period. That dream came true when I was assigned there in 2006-2010.
However, it is true that beauty is not enough for a long-term relationship since it may be deceitful sometimes. Now I understand why many love at first sight do not last long.
It did happen to me while staying in Geneva. Many imaginations of good things were shattered during the course of my stay there. Nonetheless, I have spent four years in the city with joy, sadness and bitterness and some memories to laugh at.
While for Jakarta, I tend to agree with the CNN report which considered Jakarta as the “Big Durian” since it is not everyone’s fruit. Durian has horrible scent to some, ugly and uneasy to hold since it has spiky shape, thus not everyone loves it, although some consider durian one of the best fruits in the world.
So, unlike Geneva, you may do not like Jakarta at the first sight. Indeed, when you enter Jakarta from Soe
karno-Hatta International Airport the first scene offered is the dirty slum areas and continued with horrendous traffic jam particularly if you arrive during peak hours. Thus, perhaps, Javanese expression witing tresna jalaran saka kulina, the seeds of love comes from the intense interaction, suits Jakarta.
Indeed, the issue of living place, be it in a city or rural area, is like a marriage which you have to accept it for better or worse, since it is your choice or you are forced to live there since you have no option.
In Geneva, you won’t find issues like flood, traffic-jam, slum area, poverty, corruption and inefficient bureaucrats.
Indeed, in Geneva you won’t find any local bureaucrat who will ask you shamelessly for Rp 500,000 (US$53.5) for an ID card (KTP) despite a big poster stating that ID card is given for free. I have yet come to sub district office to register for e-KTP as I am still traumatized with my ordinary KTP experience.
But in Geneva you will find the issues of, among others, xenophobia and racism (UN Special Rapporteur Dodou Diene report, 2007), sky-rocketing renting price for apartment and accommodation, high rate suicide and non-tolerant people toward children regardless of their special needs.
Unlike Jakarta, the Genevois are overly obedient people to the laws and regulations and they like tranquil and noise-free environment. Because of this I have to move from my apartment/house three times during my four years stay in Geneva, due to my neighbor’s complaints over the noise made by my autistic four-year old daughter.
The reason why I did not move for the fourth time was since I sent my daughter back home as I could not stand anymore of doing tiresome house-moving. But the foremost reason was worrisome treatment of my daughter in school that insisted that I gave my child sedation drug (Risperdal), which is common for people with schizophrenia.
So they consider autism a psychotherapy/psychiatric issue rather than special needs, which is odd in most countries in dealing with autism kid, aside France.
But there is also hilarious thing that we can find only in Geneva. On weekdays, except Thursday, after 6.30 p.m. shops are closed.
While on Sunday shops are closed except shops at the airport and train station. Thus many people were busy shopping on Saturday. Not being able to buy groceries because the shops are closed on Sundays and during the week after 6.30 p.m. in many places in Switzerland has surprised and irritated many visitors and foreign residents.
The funny thing when there was a referendum to prolong store opening hours, the proposal was rejected by the people due to, among other reasons, possible disruption of their sex life!
While the funny thing about the noise-free issue is that that often make weird regulations. For example, during my stay in Geneva I keep wondering, and I cannot still figure it out until now, the reason to pass regulation not to make closet flushing after 10 p.m.
Nonetheless, at least, this can partly explain why they do not allow Muslims there to build minaret (but not banning the building of and destroying old mosques).
In this light, since Jakartans will soon elect their governor, we have to ponder how to make Jakarta a better place to live through voting for the right candidate. When I was in Geneva I was only a foreigner who could not make a difference, since I had no right to vote.
All in all, like in any relationship you cannot find the perfect couple. The thing is how you can accept her or his liability while keep trying to make it less. This can be applied also to Jakarta when we elect the right governor in which we can hope for the betterment of Jakarta.
The writer is an alumnus of Tsukuba University in Japan.