Sorting out some ancient emails, I came across a request I sent to fellow expat bloggers here two and a half years ago when I was rewriting Culture Shock! Jakarta. I didn't use any of the responses, but as they seem too good to waste, here, without attribution, is a selection. there will be two more posts this week.
First up is 'I' answering the question What was your first 'what the ...?' moment?
My WTF moments? Too many of them. Here's a few off the top of my head: - the girl promoting milk in Hero supermarket who flashed a tit at me - the servant who having to weigh some onions decided to take all of them out of the plastic bag thinking the plastic bag would affect the weight. - ever been down one of those side alleys in Jakarta? The poverty is amazing - and it's easy to get lost too. - people on top of the train on their way home. - waking up in the morning, thinking there was a rat at my feet, jumping a mile, only to realise it's the wig of the girl I'd brought home and she had a close shaven head! - actually being bitten by a small rat that had got into my room (in Surabaya) - being caught in a tropical rain storm on the way to class, and the next thing you know you are walking in two feet of water, drenched to the bone. - seeing the video on Metro TV of the tsunami in Aceh. - a doctor prescribing medicine for my baby daughter's sore throat and later checking the medicine on the internet and reading this: Warning: strong medicine not to be prescribed to children under 5 under any circumstances. etc etc...
And now to O's responses.
WTF 1 ...Brand new in Jakarta and my mate has family duties so he suggests I head down to Hard Rock Café, the old one before it went yuppie. Tired, a bit overawed and generally confused I had never seen so many beautiful girls in one spot!! To collect my thoughts (and courage) I retired to a darker section of the bar - keep in mind I was not out trawling for women - and struck up a conversation with an American guy.
Some time later, I became aware of someone one fumbling with my fly; with the hands of a concert pianist she had my family jewels out breathing the fresh air. The American, obviously an old hand, caught my look of "shock and awe" and uttered the phrase I was to hear time and again over the following years " Don't worry TII (This is Indonesia). As a side issue, I was not prepared for the performance when I told her I was going home alone but that's another story.
WTF 2 ... Traveling in Papua, with a driver and myself, rounding a bend to be confronted with about 15 rock wielding youths and an old man dressed in a Loin Cloth, painted face, bone and the biggest mother of a bow and arrow you have ever seen. Despite the driver's protests, we stop (if nothing else I will go down as the last man this century to shot by a bow and arrow). It was a very tense and scary time but once it was established that we were not Freeport, everything was ok. It was still tense though as they were as high as kites chewing something that just made me vomit. Nothing like vomiting to build bonds between cultures. Needless to say we then gave them a lift - yes all of them - about 15km up the road where they all got off and walked away into the jungle.
What do you miss most from 'home'? Driving faster than 60kph
Have you joined/did you join any 'expat' clubs? If so, which ones? Are you kidding?? Self centered, insular twits as a rule or as the Princess says "Tempat Bule Takut" in their expat compounds.
If you have been here for several years, what problems do you still have coping with? - Lack of consideration for others, the environment, the future. - The sheer inability to queue up for anything at anytime. - The groveling respect given to anyone who may be of a perceived higher station and worse the expectation of such groveling. - Evolution does not apply in Indonesia. By sheer culling and death motor cycle riders should be getting smarter but every day they achieve new lows in stupidity. - Government officials ...raping, pillaging bastards and no one gives a damn. - Arab Islam
What keeps you here? Indonesia is still a man's country, which in tself is not necessarily bad. You cannot rely upon the police or the government to protect or provide for you and yours, each man (and sometimes woman) must make his own way and that can be satisfying.
When I do something for others and the community it does make a difference. I donate $200 a month for instance to the local school from my pay here and I can see the difference. I donate that in Oz and its not even coffee money.
My staff, the company was running for 15 years before I came, not one course or training programme. Now we send people every year to Australia, Jakarta, Singapore, we are involved in their lives and families and I am not about to let someone cock that up until we have reached the stage where the expat works for them not the other way around.
My family.....Who would want to change how a husband and father are treated here.