Archive for July, 2010


A Week In Review


  1. Got food poisoning (ironically from McDonalds and not street food) on Tuesday, spent all day wednesday violently throwing up and crapping on myself
  2. Home internet dead
  3. My current client emailed account manager and said I was “unprofessional” and “unfocused” (if I lose this contract staying here is in jeopardy)
  4. Lida goes back to Russia for a month and half to get a new passport on Monday and I barely saw her because of work schedule
  5. Got high and watched Zach Galifianakis  stand-up with robert at 5am on Saturday after work
  6. Saturday night date night at Lowey

Atleast its ending right.

Advertisements

Shermans Mistake


Ok, so I know what the general reaction is going to be to this post, so let me just say, Ive had a long standing grudge with the city even before the bitterness of a nasty breakup, Ive just recently found a good outlet for my angst.  The following is my submission to Cathrine Prices website devoted to her book 101 Places Not to See Before You Die

Can the keyboardist get some oxygen cause the keyboardist cant breathe no mo'

 

Ahhh Savannah, the proverbial Southern city with its classic charm (read: the last bastion of Southern White privilege). With its 24 squares, spanish moss and riverside dining who could ask for more. Well, me for starters and probably Lorraine Bulloch niece. Behind its romantic facade, Savannah has as dark an underbelly as its sordid past in the Atlantic slave trade

For starters, on the lighter side of things, is its sad attempt to create a tourist industry. Granted it is thriving, whether or not its sustaining is in question but unique it certainly is not. Expounding on the ever so original concept of ghost tours (note the sarcasm here), Savannah streets are dotted with campy hearse carting the elderly and over weight revelers lead by high school dropout guides doing their best impressions of Elvira and Uncle Herman. 

The St. Patrick’s Day parade is the 3rd largest in the country, although Im not sure how they measured this, whether by actual length, by amount of people or by the number of college frat boys throwing up in the street. Its a good time to be had by all unless you have prefer not to be spit on, beat up or pay $500 a night for a room at the Hampton Inn.  Savannah has also incorporated another aspect of a top notch mediocre tourist destination, a culinary scene highlighted by average food, poor customer service and inflated prices. You can sit on the patio and watch the freight ships come in the Port of Savannah at Hueys if you wait 2 hours. Youll then be able to pay $35 for a steak that tastes like horse meat and the waiter will come back only after you chase them down out back. 

With the loss of its cheap labor at the beginning of the 20th Century Savannahs economy has suffered. The minimum wages of the tourism industry provides just enough to keep some residents above the poverty line but not enough to afford them career or financial advancement. Few other options for sustainable income exist, aside from the paper plant and the port, as a result the city of 130,000 has seen violent crime and murder rates 3 times the national average over the last 2 decades. 

But never fear, the artist will save you. Enter Savannah College of Art and Design, because if a good college can turn a small rural mid-western town into the hottest, hippest town in hectares (isnt that how they measure distances in the country?), like Austin, Texas and Louisville, Kentucky, it surely could do the same with a stubborn, culturally frozen southern town right? Opps guess what, apparently being the leading school offering undergraduate and graduate courses in several arts and entertainment fields doesnt preclude students from actually contributing to the local economy or culture. Maybe its because of the course load or maybe theyre just all stoners but SCAD students live in a bubble between Forsyth and the River only crossing MLK Drive if they are unfortunate enough to be stuck in the converted Howard Johnston overflow dormitory. At the annual SCAD alumni commencement concert the depth and poignancy from even the brightest of the cities former residents is shown in sending off their doe-eyed graduates by saying “Hey, heres some music that was popular when we were in college… you know, before the internet”, such as G. Love & Special Sauce (No really they booked them in 1998, they were just busy until 2010), George Clinton (not that its bad but its such a safety choice, hes like the liberals James Taylor) and the barely breathing Godfather of Soul, James Brown in 2005. 

Clubs are left empty or the few that are turning out a crowd are doing so with “gangsta’s” and service men on furlough who are always in the mood for a fight . Yes, nothing says “Savannah” like a drive by shooting, an accidental baby stabbing or a night club knife fight. Favored music at the clubs of choice will most likely include at least 5 Lil’ Jon tracks. No, instead of having impromptu DJ sets, jam sessions or art openings from former graduates now internationally recognized (India.Arie, Circle Takes the Square, etc) returning to do business in the city that created their career, youre more likely to catch a sparsely populated goth night that was probably started when all the ghost tours guides got off work and went to the same bar. 

To cap off your visit to the Ole South be sure to swing by a tea shop that will take you back in time to the first half of the 20th century, particularly if you aren’t white. The Savannah Tea Room is run by a brood of old women that would make the Witches of Eastwick look like Mary Poppins. No reservation required but approval is. Yes, Savannah really is a magical place filled with nostalgia for a time long since forgotten, filled with people that have an innate ability to replicate it to sub-par standards. While it was spared on Sherman’s march south, a weekend getaway will leave the astute traveler wondering, “Why?”.


Ok, so I’m posting this more for my own sake than anything else as a result of the poor information I’ve found on the internet, perhaps this will help others.

Just a bit of background in case anyone hasn’t been keeping up. I came to Indonesia in February under the premise that I’d be getting a KITAS visa through the company which I had set up prior to arriving. This would allow me to stay and work in Indonesia without having to go to the dreaded Kantor Imigrasi for an entire year. Upon getting here I decided I wanted to save my money until I actual had work in Indonesia, since the process was going to cost about 30 juta rupiah ($2500 USD). Visa On Arrival costs 250,000 rupiah ($30 USD) and a one time 30 day extension costs the same. So every 2 months I’ve had to leave the country for a day and then return. Even with an average cost of $300 USD per trip(round trip flights to Singapore or KL are rarely more than $100 USD) at 5 trips per year its still cheaper than the KITAS, however after experiencing Kantor Imigrasi twice (5 hours of going from station to station to get one stamp) I understood the real value of the KITAS.

Iwan and I had set up a local PT which is the equivalent of a limited liability company in the States. When I sat down with the lawyer to talk about getting my KITAS I was informed that it is almost impossible for a local PT to sponsor a KITAS as the Department of Manpower wants to only given them out to PMAs which are foreign investment companies and, as they see it, the only companies that would need foreign workers. In order to create a PMA it will take 50 juta rupiah ($5500 USD) plus the KITAS fee and will take about 3 to 6 months. So in short, I get to do the following process at least 2 more times until our PMA is completed.

The following details the process to extend a Visa On Arrival for 30 days at the Central Jakarta Immigration Office.

First off, finding the address for this was a massive pain. Keep in mind that there is only ONE office you can do this at.  You cant do it at the main office and you cant do it at the airport. There are locations in Sumatra and Bali I believe but Ive never done it. All the government sites that I visited listed the main office in Jakarta Pusat (Central Jakarta). Even doing a google search for Kantor Imigrasi and the street that I was fairly certain it was on (Julan Merpati) didn’t return any results. I finally googled Kantor Imigrasi Jakarta Selatan (South Jakarta) and it got me what I was looking for oldly enough. Even though the office I wanted is technically Jakarta Pusat it must be on the very boarder of North and West Jakarta as its a good 30 min ojek ride:

Kantor Imigrasi Klas – Jakart Pusat
Jl. Merpati Blok B12 No. 3
In the Kemoryan district

The office opens at 8am and I strongly suggest getting there as early as possible. By 10am everything is in full swing and you can expect it to take upwards of 4 hours, especially given the lunch break that EVERYONE takes at noon (they had a French efficiency consultant structure their work days apparently).

Once you walk in the building you want to go to the 3rd floor. Just take the stairs to the right of the main entrance to the very top. You will need a few things:

  1. Passport (duh)
  2. Sponsor letter signed by your sponsor with a Materai
  3. Photocopy of your sponsors Indonesian ID
  4. Extension packet with the form signed by your sponsor. You get this from the photocopy window which is the first one when you get to the top of the stairs for 6000 rupiah ($0.75 USD)
  5. Photocopy of the information and photo page of your passport, which you can get at the same window for 500 rupiah ($.04 USD)

Once you have all this in your red folder, go to the window in the waiting room on the left between the two sets of chairs. Now is when the fun begins. Depending on the mood and what futbol team won last night the Imigrasi Officer will ask you to do a number of useless tasks. They could include but are not limited to:

  1. Photocopying your passport photos again in a different size and or shade
  2. Having the typist next to the photocopy room type the salutation ABOVE the date instead of just after it where you, apparently ignorantly, placed it
  3. Use their formatted sponsor letter and then sign your name under your sponsors name
  4. Do the hookie-pookie and turn your self around

Once you are done with the first check point you now have no fewer than 5 more check points. There is:

  1. The basement dweller with his Zuma playing assistant who relishes your attention and will do anything to extend your visit with him
  2. Both windows back up on the 3rd floor across from the first window
  3. The cashier down on the 1st floor
  4. Finally the photocopy window one last time and if they are really slow, the 3rd floor copy window closes at 3:30pm so you’ll have to go to the first floor copy room
  5. Then back to the first window

Keep in mind that the cashier closes at 3:30pm also even though the office closes at 5pm. If you start the process on your last day and don’t finish you should be ok, at worst you will have to pay 200,000 rupiah ($25 USD) per day that you stay over on your visa, but again, the intrinsic cost is far more by having to go to the Kantor Imigrasi two days in a row.

Later I will post the details of getting a Social/Cultural visa which is really the way to go. This allows you a two month stay, then every month you can get a 30 day extension but you don’t have to leave the country for 6 months.

If you speak Bahasa (obviously) it will probably get you through faster. My friend came in the same day as me 3 hours later and had an extra step to go through and yet he got his finished at the same time as me by standing next to them joking around.

Final note, if you want to skip all this you can hire an agent. It will run you 1 juta ($110 USD) but you’ll save years on your life for the lack of stress.


Ok, sorry Ive neglected the blog for the past week or two.  Ive submerged myself 100% into the East Coast work schedule and its reeking havoc on my personal life. I recently leased a serviced office in a tower close to my apartment.  Its basically a closet but its cheap, about $350 a month and most importantly, I finally get the internet connection I need to be productive. I typically get to work around 7pm and get home around 5am. I then sit and watch a movie on TV.  Always an interesting mix, recently its been Cool Hand Luke, Taken (dont be fooled by the trailer, this is a great Liam Neeson movie) and Another You (“I hear they’re putting Basil on everything now. I really think Basil is coming into its own as an herb. Im so happy for basil.”).  I then typically go to sleep between 8 and 10am. Depending on the day I may sleep until 3pm or sometimes times 6pm. Wake up rinse and repeat, well, not always rinse.

Last week I made a slight deviation from the plan. Iwan and I signed up for a beer pong tournament. Id played once before in my life and so had Iwan so I figured Id be a nice one night activity. The format is 32 teams, 5 rounds, one week between each round.  Each round has a time limit (I think 10 min). Its a best-of-3 series to move on to the next round. You can call for a re-rack of your cups 3 times a game and if you bounce a ball into a cup the opposing team has to drink 2.

The first game went as I expected. We went down on time, 4 glasses to 2, but it was never close. The second game I hit 5 of 6 and we closed them out 0 glasses to 4.  The third game was an epic back and forth until the very end. Iwan ended the game by closing them out while we still had 2 cups on the table. We had to register and pick a name so I polled some people for suggestions.  Some of the entries were:

  • The Faggots
  • Butterflies
  • Sparkle Nation (theres a pattern here)
  • The Wife Stoners
  • Mecca Lecca High Mecca Highney Hoe
  • Brew-hammad Ali’s

We decided to go with a hybrid of the last, Brew-hammad the Beer Prophets. Its playful enough but with a slight twinge of sacrilege.  Tonight is the second round and once again I dont give us much of a chance, but insha’allah, Ale willing, we will emerge victorious.

UPDATE:

Well as fast as it started its over. We were destroyed by one of those obnoxiously enthusiastic boyfriend-girlfriend teams. The girl couldnt wait to dispense of us so she could get back to texting on her Blackberry and it didnt take long.  We went down 0 to 4 in the first set and o to 3 in the second.

The Last Betrail


So Ive given up on so many of my morals since Ive been here, whether by my own choice or forcibly. The latest episode was the latter.

Bulgarian friends from CouchSurfing in Amsterdam

Some of you remember I did couchsurfing for a while in 2007 and 2008.  I became a bit jaded about the whole thing in mid-2008, mostly because I started hanging out at local CS events in Portland and didnt get the same sense of excitement and adventure with the locals as I did travel and hosting foreigners(read: they viewed it as another way to get laid).

We decided to open up our second room to potential CS’ers a month ago and accepted our first request, a backpacker from Chicago. Justin is an American Jew studying city planning  in developing nations in the Middle East and did his thesis on “Developing a Palestinian State”.  Yeah, his parents are really proud of him. For me, it was the perfect re-introduction to CS. He was extremely adventurous, preferred street food to a walk-in restaurant and never shied away from interaction with the locals. We even con’ed our way on to the helipad of the Bakrie Tower, Jakarta’s newest skrise.

Given my schedule of working east coast time lately, I wasnt able to join him one morning to the Indonesian National Gallery (on par with a nice Thomas Kinkade strip mall gallery), so Lida tagged along. Later he affirmed my opinion that gallery hopping with Lida is far more interesting than by yourself as she acts as a personal tour guide. Half way through the gallery (keep in mind its inside), a small kitten skimpered up to Lida.

INTERLUDE:

Anyone that knows me understands that Im allergic to cats.  In the classic form of our relationship, Lida loves cats and I love dogs.  Its not that I hate cats, I just dont like them. I think Ralphie May summed it up best when he said “What the f*** are you doing hanging out with a cat. Cats are vile creatures….If you own a cat it f***ing hates you. All youre there to do is feed it, scratch that place where its tail meets its ass and clean out its shit box”.

Lida and Justin walked around talking to the employees at the gallery to find out where its mother was but no one knew and dismissed it with a laugh and something in Indonesian, probably along the lines of “Its mother is being server as Bakso (meatballs) at the warung outside”.  So of course, with the fact that the kitten was found in a gallery, it meant it was destiny.

Tapeworms, trash for dinner and no place to sleep all of the sudden didnt look so bad to Lidas new found friend

So I am now the proud owner of a ferial stump-tailed Indonesian cat.  At least its not a curly tailed Indonesian cat cause theres no way Id let that thing in my house. After about 5 min of being in the house I think the kitten was having second thoughts about choosing Lida once she was being held under a full stream of water and scrubbed with soap.

I have to admit though, shes pretty damn cute. I stopped taking my allergy pills after the first day and I havent had a reaction yet.  It may be because shes a kitten and the older she gets my allergies may become worse, but for now we’re pretty good buddies. She sits on my lap or shoulder while I work or shits in my lap while I work, depends on her mood I guess and I enjoy squeezing her face so she looks like Chinese, its a give and take relationship. We talk for hours about philosophy, religion, current events, even sports.  She seems to be pretty one sided though as all she ever says is “miu, miu, miu”.

Took her to the vet and got blood work, worm medicine, syringes to feed her and found out she was 3 weeks old! The total bill was just over $12 USD, makes it much less painful. We didnt have a name for her when we took her in so Lida told the vet her name was my imitation for the sounds she was making, “Ms. Miu Miu” is on her official license.

Little Ms. Miu Miu

So Ms. Miu Miu is some what of a permanent resident I guess. We’re getting a new apartment in a month and it won’t be in a skyrise. Miu Miu will have to be an outdoor cat. Until then I will have to learn to appreciate her feline qualities but Im still trying to teach her the whole fetch-me-a-beer-from-the-fridge thing that I always dreamed my dog would do.