Deborah Iskandar is an American who has lived in Jakarta for more than 17 years. Having been a representative for an auction house for 12 years and took a much deserved a year break, she was recruited in July 2008 by Sotheby’s, one of the world’s oldest auction houses, to establish its presence in Indonesia and take incumbency as a consultant for Sotheby’s Hong Kong.
WHY DO YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN JAKARTA? I find the city a fascinating place to live as there are so many opportunities despite some contradictions. As such, the capital city of Jakarta offers me the fine living hub of meeting so many different types of people such as those professionally engaged in the realm of being diplomats, artists, writers and entrepreneurs. Not only is Jakarta a very cosmopolitan city. But more importantly, as my husband is Indonesian, this is my home, for better or for worse!
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE JAKARTA WITH OTHER CITIES YOU HAVE LIVED BEFORE? I was born and grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. It is a great place to grow up and visit, indeed. However, this is not where I want to live. The laid-back atmosphere of the city does not fit in for a city girl like me. When I first moved to Asia, I lived in Hong Kong which is still, in my opinion, a striking city to live in, especially if you are young and single. But, for those who are married with children, Jakarta is second to none. Despite being a cosmopolite, Bali and Yogyakarta are among my favourite places to visit. The two are famous for the artists and their masterpieces.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FRUSTRATION OF JAKARTA LIFE? Traffic! The city’s traffic patterns vary depending the hours and areas. Sometimes, the traffic can be worsened owing to infrastructure development. If you know the patterns, it can make your life easier. And I have got smarter to plan when, at what time and where to go.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FRUSTRATION OF JAKARTA LIFE? Notwithstanding the presence of small galleries and few museums in the city; and how rich Indonesia is in art and culture, I’m often disappointed with the fact that Jakarta does not have a proper contemporary museum.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BUILDING IN JAKARTA? I love the Museum Gajah. It’s an awesome site to see rows of ancient Indonesian sculpture. Nevertheless, my most favorite building is the Bogor Palace. The palace displays an array of beautiful paintings from the collection of the late Sukarno. I really hope that the vibrant art atmosphere in Bogor Palace can inspire Jakarta to be acknowledged as Indonesian art center, an umbrella of beautiful works of Indonesian artists.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FAVOURITE EATERY? It’s a rather hard question to answer since I’m a foodie who lives in a food haven city. I generally love all types of Asian food; from ‘Bakmi Asun,’ a gerobak (food cart on the street) serving yummy bakmi ayam on Jalan Lombok, Menteng to Japanese and Thai fine-dining restaurants. In general, I love all types of Asian cuisines.
WHAT LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS CAN YOU SHARE? I have recently discovered the “Pasar Pluit” for shopping. My good friend Trevor, an Australian chef took me there to unveil the delights of shopping in a traditional market. Not only is the place very clean, but there are eateries serving cheap yet fresh meals like nasi campur. It was a great Saturday morning treat!
WHERE DO YOU SHOP? I am not a big shopper. I’d rather spend my time visiting art galleries.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE WEEKEND LIKE? After going through a hectic week, nothing is better than spending time for some fun activities with my family. We enjoy riding our bikes on Jalan Sudirman on Sundays, walking our dogs, playing tennis and I especially like hanging out by the pool with my kids.
By Aulia Rachmat, published in The Peak Magazine Indonesia, January 2009.