Published: August 2nd 2012August 2nd 2012
So, I was actually only in Indonesia for about 50 hours, but I had enough random experiences that I could have written many more quick blurbs. However, for the sake of your attention span, here are four: Sunday Night Rave in Jakarta?
Houston to Chicago to Hong Kong to Jakarta. That’s how I had to go to get there. Unfortunately, my luggage did not follow suit, so I arrived in Indonesia’s capital city of 12 million at midnight with the clothes on my back (and the extra set I had fortunately hand carried for fear of this happening). Sitting in the back of my car as we cruised through the steamy night en route to hotel, my body was starting to feel the effects of 30+ hours of travel; the body is tired, the mind is cloudy, the bed is calling.
We pulled up to the Hotel Mulia, which is one of the nicer hotels in the city, only to be stopped short while they bomb-swept my car, passed my luggage through x-rays, and sent me through a metal detector. It always seems a bit odd just outside of a 5-star hotel, but given some of the relatively
recent terrorist attacks that have targeted Westerners in this city, it has become common practice and perhaps even just a formality.
Finally, I was granted permission to the hotel, and immediately upon entering the opulent lobby, was greeted/jolted awake by the thundering sound of electronic dance music superstar, David Guetta, blasting throughout the hotel. It was Monday morning at 1:00 AM. I was so confused. Despite being thoroughly exhausted, this curiosity was too much to ignore. I slipped downstairs only to find a huge techno dance party raging. Actually, come to find out, it was a wedding reception. But I thought this was Indonesia…..turns out I would be confused quite a few more times during this visit. And Then There Were Three.
On Monday morning, my local colleague picked me up for our first meeting with customers. I was a little underwhelmed by the light schedule, but he informed me that in Jakarta, he only usually schedules one meeting in the morning and one in the afternoon. Because the traffic is so horrendous, booking anything more risks making a lot of cancelation calls. As soon as we set off in his car, I immediately understood what
he was talking about. I’ve been to many cities with terrible traffic, but this place took the undesirable gold medal. Mopeds criss-cross throughout traffic with the narrowest of margins. Gentle nudges to other cars are quite commonplace. “But don’t worry, we can take the special highway”, my colleague tells me.
As soon as he steers us onto the “special highway”, he begins to scan the crowd of by-standers lining the highway. I assumed hitchhikers. I was wrong. Apparently, you need THREE people in your car to ride this special highway. As there were only two of us, we needed to find a third. He asks me, “Who do you think looks good?” :/ As it’s explained to me, for a fee, these people will get in your car and ride with you to wherever you’re going. They then get dropped off, paid, you go your separate ways, and you don’t get fined by the cops - who can either give you a ticket or accept an under the table cash “donation”. There are an army of people out there in Jakarta who make a living by getting paid to ride around in other people’s cars. Quite entrepreneurial, right? “He Says, ‘Okay’”.
I’ve had the fortune of working in a number of foreign countries, and while I usually try to learn a bit of the local language, I was extremely unprepared for Indonesia. And normally, after the pleasantries are exchanged in the local language, we proceed in English or use a translator. Not here. I was giving a sales presentation to eight Indonesians at one of our customer’s offices, and at times they would stop me and ask questions in English. But more often, they would turn to my local colleague, and carry on for five uncomfortable minutes in Bahasa. I would kind of sit shifting in my seat, forcing the occasional nod (as though I understood and agreed), and find myself completely lost as to what was happening. Once they concluded this lengthy discussion, I would ask my colleague if they had any questions. He would simply respond with something like, “He says, “Okay”’.
Oh, good. That really clears things up. 85 Kilos of Meat
After dinner on the last night of my stay, I decided to venture down to the hotel bar/club for a beer. Being a Muslim country (the world’s most populous), you can’t find alcohol everywhere, but like in the Middle East, hotels are a good place to start. As I walked into this place, I first noticed the live band covering Bob Marley. I then scanned around the room and saw nothing but young local women cozied up to Western men at least twice their age. I’ve seen this before, but never so ubiquitous. I decided to make a beeline for the bar, but as I pushed through the crowd, I felt all the attention turn my way. And not in a “Man, my self-esteem just got a boost”-kind of way. More like “Fresh (younger) meat”. After managing to make it to the bar and order a beer, I could sense the blood had already been dispersed in the water. I’ve been in countries before where I’ve seen guys charged $$$$ and then threatened for not paying just for talking to these types of girls. Given that, I quickly finished my beer and bolted for the exit before the sharks attacked. I’m pretty sure I never heard the end of that Bob Marley song.
Never a dull moment in Indonesia.