Karen Barlow, Jakarta – The thick, hot smog and its accompanying dangers never seem to go away.
It is this city's state of being.
It is a blanket without comfort.
The fires and smoke are everywhere. Some try to hide them by timing the burn in the dark early hours. Others don't care. But the remnant ash tells a million stories. A lazy eye can easily spot an ash pile and partly burnt leaves out the front of homes.
The smell is something else.
Intermingled with scent of charred vegetation is the tart, acrid stink of burning plastic. It is not a rare thing. This is how things are done in the Indonesian capital.
This is how rubbish "disappears" in Jakarta.
Of course, it does not vanish. There is no magic. We all pay with our lungs.
It is dry season at the moment. The tropical rains of the wet season that can rinse the sky, reducing air pollution, have been absent for months.
There is little rain right now (incredibly, authorities have warned of drought conditions in a city that is regularly flooded during the wet season) and there is no rain on the immediate horizon, so the problem with the air we breathe gets worse.
It is not just plastic and rubbish burning that chokes the sky. We are all to blame. We buy the plastic and run scores of air conditioners day and night to somehow pretend we don't live in the tropics; there are millions of vehicles running in Jakarta's crazy traffic at all hours of the day and then there are the emissions from manufacturing and the fires involved in land clearing.
No one is supposed to just burn rubbish. It is illegal and offenders do get fined. Social media now pings people with incriminating videos and locations. However, we are told by the people dobbing them in, after a few days' grace the burn usually returns.
Sadly, it is a haves and have-nots problem. The fires get around garbage collection fees. The bulk of Jakarta's population simply cannot afford to pay to have rubbish taken away. Would you feed your child or have garbage taken away?
Even some well-to-do homes also try to burn it all away instead of paying up.
But burning plastic? The practice is hard to fathom given the poison it creates. Bags, cups, straws, drink bottles and countless food containers. There is so much of it strewn amongst the remaining greenery of this city. It clogs waterways. It is terrible to see.
If it is not being burnt, it is flowing out to the oceans. A 2015 study in the journal Science named Indonesia as a second largest source of marine plastic waste after China.
Jakarta is drowning in plastic and it is easy to feel despondent about it. It just keeps coming and the magnitude is enormous.
Ordering food can easily turn into a plastic fest where a variety of tiny elements of the meal can arrive individually wrapped. And buying goods online usually leads to several layers of plastic wrap in readiness for Jakarta's now renowned speedy scooter deliveries. There are some recycling schemes here, but there is not a city-wide dedicated service to collect and recycle paper, plastic and metal.
There are livelihoods in the trash. People comb through rubbish searching for food and perhaps forgotten treasures.
What can one person or one home do to make an impact? I felt I was making a difference living in Australia by recycling, composting and being careful. But where did my recycling go anyway? Indonesia? And here, the plastic problem seems immense.
Sometimes I feel that worrying about the household waste we create is pointless, given the 30 million people who inhabit the greater Jakarta area.
Sometimes, too, it feels like the end of the road. This is the unsustainable future we are sadly leaving our children.
I figure in the end it is worth a try to change things. We have three tiny kids and we should not leave them to live in a Wall-E style massive pile of garbage.
So they play with milk containers, toilet rolls and delivery boxes. Hey, they love it. And I refuse plastic at the counter, save jars and try to use beeswax wraps.
It is not much really, but the dirty alternative is an ocean of sadness.
[Karen Barlow is an award-winning journalist who worked for the ABC for more than 20 years in Canberra, Sydney, Hobart, London, Beijing and Antarctica. She also worked for SBS and Huffington Post. She is currently a full-time mum to three children under 4, based in Jakarta.]