Neil Bantleman and Ferdi Tjiong

By about 2:30 in the afternoon his face had a look of anguish. Seated on a bit of orange tarpaulin Neil Bantleman and his colleague, Ferdi Tjiong, both teachers at Jakarta International School, had been detained by police for more than two months previous on suspicion they had participated in the rapes of three kindergarten aged students at the school.

On a recent Monday afternoon at the Ruang Carlo sexual health clinic at Carolus Hospital in central 
Jakarta, Dr Vero had an especially busy shift. The only doctor on duty that day she worked six hours until 8pm. She saw 10 patients, all of them arriving for their first HIV test. All of them were gay. Eight tested positive.  

With each positive test result comes the counseling afterward and the emphasis on encouraging partners to get tested, too. In my one-hour conversation with Dr Vero endearingly reaches for a metaphor in English to make plain her worries she expects more days like that one she had in mid December.

"Still many people don't know about their health," Dr Vero explains. "It's just the tip of the ice cube."

Jakarta shopping malls

Life in Jakarta revolves around shopping malls. Gyms, cafes, bars, nightclubs are tucked away in gleaming, frigid monstrosities where the "no-smoking" signs should end in a question mark. They're more of a suggestion than an instruction. 

Lately I've been interested in the idea of public amenity -- free space that offers refuge like a park or a sidewalk. I've been interested in them because, here – in Jakarta -- there aren't any. So, I started wondering: when do people demand more from their cities than a place to work? When do they begin thinking of quality of life?