On the ground now in Jakarta just over 24 hours. My, oh, my. Overwhelmed doesn’t begin to describe it.
Arrived from Hong Kong last evening and collected at airport by our wonderful sponsor and her daughter. They got us to temporary housing.Very nice housing. Lovely marble flooring. And hardwood. Lots of storage and a very loud doorbell. Shared pool on the grounds with lots of flowers, plants and birds. There are a couple of decks and it is well furnished with furnishings that do not match the style of the home, but I’m told match every other embassy employee in the world. Comfortable and functional and…colonial.
We’re given a brief run down in the place. Where things are briefly, and left on our own.
We explore our abode, three bedrooms and an office with storage in the basement. We unpack. I find a 2.5 inch bug on my dresser and scoop him up with a definite squish and chuck him in toilet.
Seeing toilet reminds me tha I’ve not gone to bathroom since Hong Kong, or was it Tokyo? So, I do by business and turn to flush and to my brief horror see said bug crawling slowly and valiantly out from under the toilet paper.. He must see me, because when I stoop to flush he bursts into speed, trying to scramble up the slippery bowl. Not fast enough, though. I got him.
I see knob for the bidet on side of bowl. Being curious and never having used one, I turn knob. A slender white plastic tube shoots out from under bowl and drenches the front of my shirt. Touché my buggy friend. Touché.
Wake next morning. I’ve been told that rather than having he day to settle in, I’m to go the British embassy for a meeting about child protection related to a rather high profile legal case that is going on in country now. So, I unroll a shirt and jacket and get dressed. A car arrives and off I’m whisked.
Traffic while congested, does seem to move smoothly. I’m struck by the thousands and thousand of scooters that whisk and zoom in and out of every conceivable space. If you’ve seen those movies filming blood cells in the bloodstream, this is how traffic moves. General movement in the right direction. There are lanes painted on the street, but these seem to be largely ignored. Traffic lights also seem to be a suggestion. Roundabouts are free-for-alls. Despite this I get to my destination early, after a 20 minute ride.
Despite the chaos, I think that I can live with the traffic. It seems manageable.
The afternoon rush though, may change my mind. The scooters in the afternoon seem to have multiplied if that is possible. Cars too. The same trip home takes thrice as long.
In addition to the vehicles there is frequently a pedestrian interloper walking down the center of the street. One man sells snacks. The trip takes so long you may as well get some nourishment.
One man is selling a hello kitty bubble machine spinning on a string shooting out a continuous stream of bubbles into everyone’s car. I can’t imagine anything worse than being in traffic with a tired four year old who is now screaming for he bubble gun he just saw. A brilliant marketing ploy.
Yet another person is dressed in a “Despicable Me” minion costume which is inflated over his body. It is dusky and grey from soot. He shimmies to the tinny beat from the radio at his feet. U.S. panhandlers have nothing on these guys.
We arrive home and opt to go shopping. We’re in need of supplies. Despite just recently getting home we head back out to the store via taxi. We’re tired and hungry. So it’s easy to load up on crap. We make a conscious effort to think healthy. We spend 3 million rupees.
The exchange rate is 11000 to 1. There is no bill larger than 100000 or about ten dollars. If you pay in cash the wad in my pocket will make you think I’m very glad to see you. We pay by credit.
We catch a cab home. We are told to use only taxis for one cab company and so we do. Our driver, though has no idea where we live. I, despite my three weeks of indonesian, and no idea where I live, cannot tell him. I do say we are staying near the Dharmawangsa hotel. I’m told it is one of the most expensive in the city and exclusive in the city. He still has no idea. He stops to ask for directions not 2, not three, but 5 times. One time he stops dead center of the street and gets out to ask the guy in front of us. Another time he asks a motorcyclist hidden in the foliage. I kid you not.
We do make it home and unload our groceries. I’m spent by the hour long odyssey home. The total fare is 55250 rupiah. I give him 60000. He tells me he doesn’t have change and I’m initially pissed, then catch myself as I’m about to argue over 50 cents. Taxis are cheap and I’m about to be cheaper.
I’m tempted to make a meal of the half dozen Kinder surprise eggs, but think better of it. Daughter Z is in full internet withdrawal and lazes listlessly on the couch jonesing for a snapchat from someone back home. She’s been a trooper so far. I just want to fill the hole in her heart.
Phone doesn’t work. We’re told it will be fixed tomorrow. No cell service yet, so now way to reach in or out. We do feel very isolated.
I collapse into bed at 10 only to wake fully at 1am. And thus I write this now.
On the plus side, we have found the American club and can see why this place is such an oasis. There is a. Commissary there and they sell lots of American goods, and also bacon which is hard to come by in the Muslim nation.
The other people we’ve met are very nice and have all seemed to have made the adjustment. Those who’ve been here 2 weeks say they love it here. Some have even extended their stay. This gives me hope.
Please don’t show this to my wife. I’m fearful she’ll cancel her flight and I need her here. We both do.