Pluit District, Indonesia: A photo essay / by Jessica Lee

What's exciting about new places is that unique experiences are found where the road is less travelled. 

I had stumbled into Pluit by accident.

I just pointed to the map roughly where I thought the port would be and for $3 CAD, the becak driver took me to this small slum on the outskirts of Jakarta.

There is a large two building apartment complex in the area, but for the most part, people live in huts.

These are actual houses.

This was a far cry from the frequently tourist-visited city. I don't think the locals were used to seeing tourists, which is why I attracted a little more attention than usual. Many people said hi, some even asked for me to take a photo of them.

Coming from Toronto where it is cold half of the time, I know I tend to dream of "what ifs" when I visit beach towns. I wonder if I would have been a world champion surfer had a started young and lived near the ocean.

Just the same, I suppose I could have been born in Indonesian slums.

Isn't it strange where life places us and what we're given when we're born?

In the end though, where an individual ends up depends mostly on him or herself. I just suppose you would have to fight harder from a slum.

It is hard for me to fathom that people can live like this.

Coming from a first world country, places like Pluit are just "out of sight, out of mind".

I mean, imagine garbage burning in your backyard.

Or having to walk through rubble on your way to school.

The cat apparently seems unfazed.

I did not walk into the houses but I can't imagine them having flushing toilets. In Indonesia, it's very common to have toilets where you have to pour water down to manually flush it.

It's also not common to have toilet paper. Rather, there is a basin with a bucket, which I am assuming you are supposed to use to clean yourself. I'm not too sure about the specifics because I always carried a packet of Kleenex around with me and I've always felt too shy to ask the Indonesians.

You always see advertisements for World Vision on television, calling for donations while showing footage of children in huts and dirt grounds.

But that always didn't seem real to me. I would be watching from the comfort of my home, sitting in an air conditioned room on a comfy leather couch. I could always look away or be distracted by the beep of a microwave, a conversation with a friend, my laptop...

Here, I was in the middle of it. I was stepping over rubble and garbage with my flip flops, feeling the hot humidity and seeing no air conditioning in their rooms. I was breathing the smoke and the fumes.

I also felt like I was going to get robbed or get myself into trouble for accidentally trespassing into people's backyards, but luckily none of that happened.

In my first year of journalism school at university, I was in a room full of other similarly bright-eyed journalism students. We watched video clips of seasoned reporters in war zones and areas of conflict. It was all very exciting, but at the same time, it was all from a screen. We were in a classroom in Toronto.

Pluit is probably the most "dangerous" place I've ever visited in person by myself.

I'm getting a taste of reporting from undeveloped places and it's been eye-opening.