Category: Jakarta


Lida In Real Life


Slackin’ on the posts. WordPress erased a really long post a few weeks ago. To sum up:

  • went to gilis
  • went scuba diving for first time
  • almost freaked out because of claustrophobia
  • got over it,  loved it went again
  • Lida attacked by Titan Trigger Fish
  • New York City leg of my US trip cancelled
  • Dallas Leg added

That about gets you up to speed. We are going back to Gili Trawangan next week when another one of her friends is coming to visit and while are there we will be getting our Open Water certification. Then I leave there and go directly to the US.

So Lida has finally been able to find work here. Despite her best efforts not to, she is now doing a lot of modeling. While its not the best paying job, it does give her something to do as well as a social life. Her first photo shoot was a 6 page Halloween spread (Moonlight Saga) in Hers Magazine. Ill post the link when I get my computer back online.

We met an Uzbek girl at Boxmart (like Circle K) named Sabina, who is here modeling. As usual, her modeling agency is basically practicing indentured servitude. They take 40% off the top of all contracts, minus expenses which include rent, food, transportation, visa services and on and on. All of which she is charged about 200-300% of actual cost. So she moved out of her room at the agency which she was being charged 3 million Rupiah ($340 USD) for and into our upstairs room. Lida and her go to casting calls or photo shoots during the week and watch movies while I work. I love hearing them converse in Russian and I find myself repeating words and phrases I have no idea the meaning of (shtotiko, nez nieu, ).

We dressed up for Halloween, first time in 15-20 years for me, as Madonna and Micheal Jackson. I went with White-T-Shirt-and-Wrist-Bandage complete with the hat and wig and she was Whos-That-Girl era. I thought it was pretty accurate.

Work is still pretty busy for me. I’ve got a great opportunity to partner Westwind with a US based Microsoft partner in the new year which I will hopefully be solidifying and be able to talk more about after my trip to the States.

Right now though having a bit of a computer crisis as my laptop won’t charge. I’m at the Lenovo service center with my baby sitting in front of me in 20 pieces. Hopefully the guy can fix it cause he doesn’t have replacement parts and it will take 7 days to order them. Makes me realize I’ve got to have a backup system.

UPDATE: They fixed it!!! Not only did he fix the problem with the charger he also tighted up my hinges and cleaned the keyboard and screen.  All while I sat there and watched in under and hour. If you’re in Jakarta and need a good computer repair shop, forget going to Ratu Plaza (IT Mall), they all just send it here and charge you extra. They didn’t even want to charge me, he said “What ever you want to pay”, so I gave the guy 100,000 Rupiah ($11 USD), their hourly service fee.

IT Service Center
Pt. Information Technology Service Centre
Jalan Balikpapan No. 11C-11D
Jakarta Pasat 10160
(021) 3850 200

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I promised in a previous post about extending a Visa on Arrival that I would detail the process of getting a social/cultural visa. Based on the random hits I got from that post I think this might be useful.

A social/cultural visa will allow a foreigner to stay in indonesia for 2 months and then extend that visa every month for 4 additional months. Also, if you’re living in Jakarta it means you can do the extension in the Jakarta Pusat (Central) office and not the Jakarta Utara (North) office, which is a nightmare.

First off, you will need a sponsor. Your sponsor will need to sign a letter with a Matarai stating they are sponsoring you. They will need to submit a photocopy of their national ID card and provide bank records showing their account balance. I’m not sure what the requirement is however.

You will need to give them a copy of your passport as well. The process will cost 450000 IDR for expedited next day service of 250000 IDR for 4 day service. Im not sure these are published rates as I didnt see a fee listing or if they are just what the guy felt his time was worth.  You will also have to pay an additional 250000 IRD at the issuing consulate.

You will have to tell them in advance what consulate you will be taking it to. Note, you cannot get this done in Indonesia.

You will then receive a notarized paper with your name, your sponsors name and the city you will be applying in.

Supposedly you must surrender your passport to the consulate noted for 2 business days, however, keep in mind Indonesian consulates observe many holidays. I believe there are about 30 – 60 national holidays including the ones celebrated by the host country, so that 2 days could easily turn into a week if you catch it on the wrong day.

Also, of the 3 cities Lida and I dealt with none of them handled this the same. In Singapore they wanted the 2 days. However when I went to Kuching, Malaysia, they took only 4 hours and I received it the same day. When Lida went to the embassy in Moscow, they refused to give it to her because she couldn’t produce documentation of a return ticket or a bank account with $2000 USD. This was something that was never requested of me any where nor stated by the Immigration Office in Jakarta.  I have a feeling that it was a Russian policy.

If you have the option I strongly suggest choosing a consulate in a small city as they seem they work the fastest.

49 Days in the Wilderness


Finally Lida is coming home tonight. After waiting an entire month for a new passport and then changing her flight to later in order to get an Indonesian social/cultural visa (which she didn’t get because, no matter what country you live in, Gov’t workers sole purpose in life is to make your life miserable), Lida will be back tonight.

I’m goin’ all out with the flowers, bottle o’ bubbly, bath stuff (for the bath tub we now have which is a luxury in Jakarta) and even bought a collared shirt that isn’t “business class” with an undershirt that’s not black or brown and have cotton worm holes in it.

Also I told her I wasn’t able to get the money in time to move into the new townhouse I was trying to get so she thinks we are staying in a Kost (kinda like an Indonesian B&B) when infact I moved in today!

It will be so nice to have my normal life back. Fall asleep with her, in a real bed, with AC, oh and a swimming pool out the back door! Two guest rooms btw (hint hint).

Indonesian Airport Fail


I’m going to Kuching, Malasyia today for a little vacation and to get my social cultural visa. First I fly to Pontianak in West Kalimantan. Kalimantan is the Indonesian portion of Borneo. I’m really excited about flying out of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Mostly because every flight I’ve ever taken from here has been delayed (and as of 5 minutes ago that streak is officially continied). But also because it is a state of the art facility.

Last week the main radar system went down. The air traffic controller had to boot the system to manual, memorize several dozen flights and their flight paths before shutting the system down again to try to bring it back online.

A few months ago the entire airport lost power for 7 seconds resulting in many airlines ticketing and flight management system being unable to recover for hours.

Today I went through 5 securiity checkpoints all with xray machines. It wasn’t until the 5th time that someone saw the large pair of scissors in my backpack.

Finally, I’m flying Batavia Air. I’ve not flown them before but I’ve heard many thrilling stories about them and their flight record. The fact that I’m flying a low volume route makes me think they probably aren’t devoting their best resources, either personnel or equipment.

So with that, I’d just like everyone to know that I am happy with the way I lived my life and have no regrets, except maybe buying a ticket on Batavia Air but really it will be over so fast my brain probably won’t have time to register the feeling of regret, it will just be like “ummm are the wings supposed to fold up like tha” CRASH!

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.


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.


     

Two Indonesian girls search how-to-start-a-trash-fire at an Internet shop in Jakarta

 

When I decided to move to Indo (the Coco, the No-No), I had a number of explanations that made it seem like I was making a logical decision based on a professional diagnosis of market, among them were:   

  • Indonesia is a developing country with an untapped technology market
  • South East Asia will be the gateway into the Chinese market place which will have global dominance in the 21st century
  • Low overhead for business startups
  • Less competition
  • I like  beaches
  • I like Lida

2 of those were somewhat unfounded, but I thought it made me sound logical and less like I was just ditching out on my responsibilities. I came across a few articles that help support that and generally validate my decision, since as stated before, I have a very weak constitution and am constantly searching for validation.    

The first is about Googles intentions in Indonesia. Personally I think the “40 million internet users” is a bit misleading.  I believe they are including mobile web-user which really should be a completely different segment since delivery, product and demographics are vastly different. Data services for your web enabled cell phone here are about $15 USD/month where as a decent internet connection is gunna run you about $100 USD/month.  Since the average monthly Indonesian income is $100/month, you have to assume that the broadband user is far more affluent. The 40 million number indicates that 15% of the country are internet users.  I believe the actual PC (dont get offended Mac/-nix users, its the royal “PC”)  user base is more like 5-10 million and Id venture a guess that a good portion of those dont actually own a PC or have internet access at home, they just go to internet cafes. I think before the real internet boom can happen in Indonesia two things have to happen:    

  1. Im no network technician but there is an inherent problem with bandwidth in Indonesia.  I cant find a good resource but from what I have read and heard there is really only one exchange point in Indonesia through which all ISPs connect too.  This governs the traffic inside and outside of Indonesia (read: hops from your access point to your destination).  Because of this there, is a limit to the speed (through-put is probably the more accurate term). There has to be a more concerted effort to provide multiple exchange points beyond the current infrastructure, which Ive been told, is via a Singapore backbone. With a redundant network not only will the bandwidth increase but reliability (less packet drops) will occur, allowing us to download unlicensed music and movies quicker.
  2. Cost prohibitive taxation on luxury items not built in Indonesia (sometimes upwards 0f 300%) makes technology purchases for the middle to lower class Indonesians unrealistic and will keep the market stunted. While the cost of living in Indonesia is exponentially lower than many other countries, this model is not reflected when purchasing electronics.  Used PC and laptops sell for the same price as new models and the new models are unknown and unreliable brands with warranties that are unproven.

The second article is a bit old but I think brings up an interesting scenario.  Yahoo recently purchased Koprol.  In addition they have announced plans to open an office in Indonesia, although they have delayed the opening and havent announced a time line. I cant help but wonder if Google and Yahoo truly feel there is an immediate potential or if they are just hedging their bets and waiting to see what the market bares.    

Finally, the Chinese connection (requires WSJ login) seems to be materializing much quicker than I expected.  In this opinion article by one of the sons of the Jakartan business tycoon Aburizal Bakrie (Bakrie is feard if not respected, by everyone in government and private industry across Indonesia), there are some interesting suggestions (read: warnings) to western government that Indonesia shouldnt be discounted if there is to be an emerging relationship.     

Perhaps a third point to bring up about the internet boom in Indonesia is that there must be standardization and regulatory infrastructure to support the kind of growth seen in the Dot-Com era of the late 90’s/early 00’s or perhaps more relevent to Indonesia, as seen in the Industrial Revolution. Without this we will see a monopolistic private industry where government regulation is directly tied to private industries desires. A worrying trend seen with Mr. Aburizal Bakrie position as the chairman of Golkar party, as well as previous posts including Chief Economic Minister of Indonesia, Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare and chairmanship of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  Not to say that this is specific to Indonesia, we’ve seen this cross-over in the U.S. as well (read:Haliburton and the Bush Empire), however, Im not confident there are checks and balances in Indonesia as we have in the states (however this could just be my own ignornace).    

 Selections from the articles above:    

Google eyes Indonesia for expansion

Google is collaborating with a local wireless broadband Internet company Bakrie Connectivity, whose new modem will come with Google Chrome web browser as a standard feature.    

Paging for Mr. Obama in Indonesia

The longer the United States waits to demonstrate its interest in renewing ties in its backyard, the easier it will be for China to fill in the gaps. Beijing has already inked a free-trade agreement with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Chinese investment capital is pouring into Indonesia to build much-needed infrastructure. For example, China’s state-owned energy and investment firms are reportedly looking at Indonesia for takeover targets and joint venture partners. Beijing has been a strong proponent of giving Jakarta, already a member of the Group of 20, a stronger voice in international economic fora.    


God only knows

 

Internet went down sometime Saturday night and Sunday morning.  Customer service is closed on Sunday so we were without Internet all day.  Not so bad, Lida and I had an unwired day so it was nice.  This morning they told me a “surfer” was out, which completely confused me until Lida translated it for me, shes really good at Engrish translation.  At 9:30am they said it would be back up by 4pm (high availability in Indonesia refers to a server being in a really tall building, apparently, or else its just how easily the Network Admins can get stoned).   

At 5:30pm they finally sent someone up to my apartment to discover my modem and coaxial cables were bad.  So two days offline with no cell phone (oh did I mention I lost it, yea for me!), probably needed the break but time to get back to procrastinating and feigning self-importance.

Around Jakarta


Just wanted to share some pictures Lida took today. These are originals unedited.

This was actually take a few days ago but its the usual sunset from the balcony.

Oldman and the bag

Mobile Shower

Moped Mafia

Indonesian Sedan

Mistakes


So this seem to be a recurring theme with me. Looks I screwed up my visa again.  Things have been moving so quickly here and Ive been coding again and I lost track of time. My visa expired yesterday. Ive been reading up online and it looks like I might be ok, just will have to pay a $40 fine, I hope thats all. Im just so bad with paperwork and staying “legal” is such a foreign concept (get it, cause Im in a foreign country but in this sentence “foreign” is used to mean, of or related to something outside ones consideration, its dual meaning, Im an amazing linguist).

Selfish Altruism


One thing that is really missing in Jakarta are user groups and general forums devoted to technology in business.  Ive always felt they were the best method for leaning about new technologies, networking and staying excited about your job. The only one Ive found in Jakarta is a SQL Server user group and an executive council, which is sponsored by a management consulting group (its like inviting a pig to a BBQ).

So, with the encouragement of a couple of expats Ive connected with recently, Ive decided to take this on myself. Not that I really need anyones help with choosing a name, or that there are more than 5 people even reading this brog (DONT BROCK MY BROG!!!), but I wanted an excuse to use the polling feature. Also seeing as my life revolves around the visualization of data I felt this was proper use of this space.

I tried to come up with a name that had a dirty acronym but I cant think of any that have a “J” in it. Darn.


So, we woke up and realized that what we had slept on was actually the mat for the diaper changing station. Lovely.   

Lida barely slept all night, freaking out about the cost of a ticket to Russia and if she would even be allowed to come back. She finally fell asleep around 5am. At 8am the “guard” (I use quotes here because the only thing he was guarding was his own lack of purpose, achievement and personality) decided his prisoners (we were accompanied by an extremely nice guy from the Punjab providence) had slept long enough, turned on the light and sat down on the couch, casting creepy glances at Lida every few minutes. Of course the Great White Russian Bear (and I mean that in the most effeminate way) was unphased by any of it and slept through it all.      

She may ride forever above the streets of Jakarta shes the girl who never returned

 

The previous night Lida had gotten the number for the Russian consulate. Being the ultimate skeptic of government and its actual effectiveness in my daily life, I thought nothing of it. She called them, and after a brief conversation, hung up the phone and to my surprise said the vice-consul would be calling her back in 15 minutes. They apologised for the wait but there was an emergency on an island with a group of Russians.    

The first image that popped into my head was a bunch of Russians sun bathing in the nude on a Muslim island and trying to get Komodo Dragons to drink vodka. Then I realized how ridiculous that notion was…there’s no Muslims on Komodo Island [insert rim shot].    

The vice-consul called back and asked her to call his assistant who speaks fluent Bahasa and have him speak to an agent to see if there was anything that could be done over the phone. The guy pretending he had authority over us was very reluctant to go to the immigration office. I suspect this is because he always gets beat up or practical jokes played on him because he’s a grade A douche and really just a step below a mall cop (at least they get pepper spray and a baton). After much pleading he finally disappeared. He returned with representatives from the airline, which until this point, we thought were part of the immigration office. We later learn that the reason for this was they had made a mistake by allowing Lida to get on the plane to Singapore in the first place. Its their responsibility to stop people with invalid paperwork. For each person that they let through that shouldn’t be, they are fined $5000. They were attempting to shirk responsibility.     

 The phone call was unsuccessful and the vice-consul was not pleased about it. He was scheduled to be at the airport later that night but decided to head over early to help sort the mess out, although Lida said he was far less eloquent with his vocabulary. As the day wore on, it became apparent that the people charged with the outcome of our situation would have to put in a full days work rather than their normal half-day.  As a result, they became exceedingly impatient and rude, directing Lida and I like children and insisting we call the vice-consul repeatedly to find out how far away he was, as well as the cold stares they threw at us as they hunched in the corner smoking their cigarettes in front of a no smoking sign.  These guys make the French look motivated.  

In the 2 hours it took the vice-consul to get there, I had conjured up visions of a Oligarkian character who spoke softly but with a very threatening tone, stout in stature and a presence that was anything but subtle. All this was true save for his dress. And to top it off, he was extremely nice to Lida AND ME! Lida beamed with pride while walking through the terminal with him, the way a girl would if her superhero father, that all her peers denied existed, came to visit her at school to vindicate her years of ridicule. Once at the immigration office, the usual barrage of ineffective and pompous low-lever officers tried to stymie the consuls attempts to gain her entrance as well as saying his boss was in a meeting (not the most creative bunch). He finally grew tired of it and said, “Ok, let me just call the ambassador and see if he has any ideas”.  He was in the boss’ office under a minute. When he came out we unfortunately didnt the result we had hoped for, Lida being allowed to enter Indonesia, however it wasnt the worst either as they did agree to let her go to Kuala Lumpur instead of Russia.  Just to ensure her seemless transit, he had them sign a contract of agreement that said she would be allowed to go to KP and return to Indonesia without any further hindrances.  Im not too sure how much legal clout that carries but it exhilarating, after sitting in an airport for 20 hours with people who couldnt care less if you live or die and for Lida, 48 hours at that, to finally have someone who not only cared but had the foresight anda bility to anticipate future issues.  In addition, he said hes ready tomorrow morning when she returns from KP to help with anything that might happen upon reentry and to call him if anything comes up. It’s really inspiring to see this and helps you understand the worth of your government.   

So here we are again. Im sitting in luxury at home and my girlfriend is stuck in an airport by herself.  Its the first time in the nearly 2 years we’ve been traveling together that shes getting a stamp in her passport that doesnt match mine, and its kinda depressing. By the time she gets home it will have been 3 days with no shower or real bed. I know what youre saying, Im the worst boyfriend ever. I wanted to go with her but she insisted it was a waste of money for me to go. Shes even refusing to stay at a hotel. While I appreciate her self sacrifice, its doing a number on my Christian guilt.


 

So Imogen Heap added a Jakarta show to her schedule a few months ago. I wasnt going to go because it was pretty expensive ($50), apparently this is normal because of the cost of bringing an artist here. Lida convinced me to go. I was a bit reluctant but am really glad I went.

The show opened with Back Ted N Ted.  He was kind of an eclectic guitar based pop with liberal usage of looping, vocoder and pedal effects.  His composition was good but it was too much like a male version of Imogen for an opening act but with poor lyrical content.  The second guy was Tim Exile.  He did improvisational dance music using samples of his voice , the audience and a drum machine.  He had a flight simulator video game controller that he had programmed to add loops, pitch shift and tweak sounds that made for a really cool interactive experience.  But I thought his original, non-improvised songs were pretty painful.

Imogen had an amazing set up, including a plexiglass grand piano, wireless microphones on to her wrists to mic all her percussion instruments as she played and her signature array mbira.  She did a great combination of old and new.  Shes a great performer because she does very original music but combines it with an amazing singing voice on the level of pop artists like Alicia Keys and Beyonce Knowles.

The most amazing thing though, was the crowd.  There were about 1000 people in the seated section and an additional 3000-5000 in general admission and surprisingly, almost all of them were intimately familiar with her music. They knew the songs as soon as they started and many were singing along with and knew all the words.  She said she had no idea until 2 months ago that she had so many fans here. I couldn’t help but think that what she really wanted to say was “All you buy is pirated music so how the hell am I supposed to know I had fans here.”


Went to my friend Mels birthday party last night. It was set up in the back of a comic book convention. Met a bunch of Australians and a couple of Dutch guys. One of the Dutch guys is an avid basketball player and said hed call next time they were playing.  The last two times I played basketball were fairly painful and humiliating. Last time was in Denmark 2 years ago when I got beat in a 1-on-1 with a Dane who was smoking while playing, granted we’d been drinking all night but none-the-less.  The time before that I sprained my ankle so badly I couldnt walk on it for over a month and it still feels weak.  So yeah, should be a good time.

 

Anyway, stumbled on to a really cool art installation by Good Guys Never Win Toy Company, all the dolls are custom-made from resin.  He also had some spooky coffins set up with what looked like clones or something.  Anyway, super interesting and a suprising find.

The party decided to move to Kemang, a popular trendy bar and restaurant spot (for those that remember I tried to open a restaurant with Iwan a year ago this is where it was going to be).  We were headed for one of Mels friends house but some how the 5 people that didnt know where it was (Myself and Lida included) got stuck in a cab together and the Mels phone was dead.  The street numbering in Jakarta are about as logical as using a broom to sweep the streets, one house will be 10 and the next will be 3119. Eventually we gave up trying to find the house and just went to the nearest bar.

Of coarse the one person in the bar that spoke Russian picked out Lida in a second. What was supposed to be 1 drink and them home turned into a 6 beer night and a drunken ride home on Ojek.

Ojek for Bules in Jakarta


 
Pickup Truck Fail

Ok, so I think Ive become fairly versed in the Ojek trade so Id like to share (Lida read: show off) what I think I know. No mater what, as a westerner, youll always be charged the Bule tax but there are a few things you can do to make sure you dont get completely ripped off and enjoy the ride.

The Business:

  1. Always have correct change for the agreed upon price, they will never have change and any additional time will result in them asking for more money. Tips arent necessary theyre kinda built-in (see Bule tax above).
  2. When bargaining, much like buying a car the walk-away  method always works but make sure youre ok with walking away. Ojek drivers are notoriously lazy and depending on the day may prefer that you walk away. But dont worry, there are about as many Ojek stands as there are Mosques.
  3. If you are skittish about riding with a helmet make sure you ask as this isnt standard equipment. Of coarse, if you are skittish at all, Ojek may not be the best mode of transportation for you.
     
  4. If you are traveling with a partner and arrange a price, the phrase “untuk ber dua”, for both, will be very useful. Once you get to your destination, regardless of your hand gestures during the bargaining process, they will suddenly speak perfect english and insist that the price was per person.
  5. If you are riding by yourself it will definitely be cheaper than a taxi. With two riders you may be breaking even or perhaps paying a bit more but the real value is time. With traffic in Jakarta you can easily take 1-2 hours to got 2 or 3 kilometers, with the Ojek drivers lack of discipline or care for common street rules he can get you there in 1/10th of the time.
  6. Less populated the area the more friendly they tend to be I think but thats not a rule. Inevitably youll end up with the SE Asian equivalent of Evil Kanevil.  Dont worry youll get there safe and if you dont, it will be over so fast you wont feel a thing.

 

The Ride:

  1. Sunglasses might be a good idea.  Most of the helmets are skullcaps so no visor.
  2. Pants or shorts with buttons on them would be best. Wallets tend to slip. Otherwise but everything in your front pockets.
  3. Some drivers are more patient than others, some want to get the white devil off their ride ASAP. With the latter, common riding rules will help you not soil your paints such as lean away from the turns and dont stare straight ahead, lest you get a bug in a oraphis.
  4. If youre paranoid about the pollution, besides being in the wrong city, you may want to get a mask, you can buy them for 1000 rupiah ($.10) .             
  5. Get fresh with your driver if need be. Grab on to his shoulders or waist, with all the starting and stopping youll be glad for it.  If you prefer your personal space or for the homophobic guys you can grab on to the oh-shit-bar at the back, however some of the newer bikes make this a bit more complicated with extra fat bars.
  6. If starring straight ahead while your driver is going the wrong way down a one way at 50 kph  makes you a bit nervous, try looking to the left or right. After all, when one of the food vendors pushes their cart in front of your driver at the last second, sending you flying into the air in route to striking any number of deadly inanimate objects or under a bus, theres really nothing thats going to help you, just let it go.

Personally I love Ojek. Its fun, fast and helps me practice what little Bahasa I know.

Beer Me


Beautiful day today. Did a little work on the company profile. Design will be the death of me. Spent two days on the cover slide. Finally asked Lida to help and she created an awesome layout in about an hour while I slept (“yeah that’s right woman, and then iron my cloths”).

Did 5km on the treadmill and a weights routine. Gone almost 3 week without missing a workout (save for a 4 day stretch last weekend). Now I realize why rich people always look cut and are so incredibly stupid. When you have nothing to do but work out and wax intellectual without doing anything tangible your body gets hard and your mind gets soft.

Spent a perfect hour or two with my girl by the pool followed by kabab wraps and Bintang. So much for the work out. Screw it, you can’t buy happiness but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come at a price (read:big fat hairy belly). Lida is taking the lead on learning and teaching me Bahasa. Saya Matt, diri America. Give me a break I’m a slow learner.


When I was living in Buffalo and hanging out with Iwan every time we went to his house, instead of hot chocolate or chicken noodle soup his mother would make us Mie Goreng.  Mie Goreng means “fried noodles” in Bahasa.  Not to be confused with Nasi Goreng (fried rice), which looks and tastes much like if you ate habachi and threw up on a plate. Mie Goreng is basically ramen noodles except they dont suck.  I always thought this was the real Mie Goreng until I came to Indonesia.  But I still love the packaged kind every once in a while. Instead of one crappy packet of powder that smells like fish, Mie Goreng has 5 pouches of yummy nirvana goodness in every package.  While this sets Mie Goreng apart, it also presents a major problem.

The five pouches are contained in (2)segmented packets, one for liquid and one for powder. The 1st pouch in the liquid packet is an oil-base with heavenly spices.  Once youve drained the oil, the spices tend to not want to come out of the packet. The 2nd pouch is basic chili sauce which doesnt present a problem in-and-of-itself, until you add in the 3rd pouch.  This final pouch really throws a wrench into the whole deal. Its Soya Sauce, not to be confused with your traditional Japanese Soy Sauce, Kecap is far more syrupy than its Japanese cousin. While trying to eject this sticky substance, I typically end up with half of all the sauces on my hands, leading me to juggle the noodles and/or putting the plastic packet in the noodles just to transfer as much of the liquid perfection as I can, which, if not painful, looks very strange to any observers.

Fear not though, this morning I solved the conundrum. You will need the following implements:

  1. Large chefs knife
  2. Cutting board with no grooves on the sides

Steps:

  1. Begin boiling noodles.  This should take 2-3 minutes depending on your preference
  2. Place the seasoning-from-the-gods liquid packet on the cutting board
  3. Cut across the top, making an opening for all 3 pouches
  4. Flip the knife over to the dull edge and squeeze all the contents on to the cutting board.
  5. Drain your noodles and place them in a bowl
  6. Using the sharp edge of the knife scrape the contents on the package into the bowl.  The majority of it will be sticking to the knife so just use the edge of the bowl, which now will be hot, to transfer said content from knife to bowl
  7. Mix noodles, add dry seasoning packet
  8. Eat manna noodles from yahweh

Dog Lovers Pizza


I got it in my head that I needed pizza.  After trying 2 dominos and 3 pizza huts with a combination of wrong numbers, disconnected numbers and no delivery (one wasnt even a pizza place) I finally found a one.  I tried to keep it simple but even that went wrong (this could be a metaphor for my life but lets not get too deep here). I ordered 1 large spicy salami with hot peppers and an order of fries. 45 mins later I received 5 medium mystery meat and ricotta pizzas. Apparently she thought I said “five pizzas” instead of “french fries”.

Good times.