Tag Archive: Indonesia



 

"Looks like a yellow biscuit of a buttery cue ball moon rollin' maverick across an obsidian sky"

I’m writing this from the top bunk in the sleeping car of the Kiev-Kryvyi Rih (pronounced Kree-voy Rog, dont ask me how they ended up with that spelling) train, all my current possessions once again stuffed in a select few suitcases, Babulya (Lidas grandmother) and Lida sleeping below, rumbling through the Ukrainian nightscape while being lulled to sleep myself by the musty smell of a coal powered engine and an inconsistent yet comforting undulation of soviet era tracks. Many things have transpired over the last month, not all that I’m at liberty to divulge here, for reasons that were not fully explained to me but that I understand none-the-less.

Before my Indonesian experience I railed against social networking and blogs. It seems to have a way of sucking the organic element, and thus the excitement, from of our lives. While technology is the catalyst for my life, I also realize that its not the purpose. I had always drawn a line with this unfiltered access to my personal life with no reciprocation required. Reciprocation is, in my opinion, the definition of a healthy relationship.

I remember my friend blogging during the birth of one of his children. It was a real commitment by both mother and father (perhaps more the mother to tolerate husband with phone in hand while experiencing excruciating pain). It allowed everyone that desired to have a connection to that family a chance to share in a very pivotal moment. However not all of lives important moments can be so neatly translated into the cloud.

In 2008 after ending a dead end relationship, I started reconnecting with old friends that had subsequently been pushed out (Rachael, both Buffalo Jessicas, Iwan to name a few). On one such trip I visited my remaining Jessica in Buffalo along with her 8 year old daughter Sarah and husband Jeff. It was my second such trip and I enjoyed the comfort of a more tangible adult life that many of my still single or undetermined friends hadn’t the ability nor desire to create. Id always known I would some day have a family but that still didnt seem realistic to me, this gave me the opportunity to see how it might function when two people truly committed. It was also nice because there was no one in Buffalo that still remembered me, as it had been over 10 years since my last visit. While hanging out in a bar downtown off Elmwood with Jessica and some of her friends, a voice came from behind “Maaaaatt Nyyyye?!”. I turned to face a man that looked nothing like anyone I knew and yet he was convinced he knew me simply by the sound of my voice. Even after telling me specific instances of things we did together in high school I still couldn’t come up with a name. After one or two incorrect guesses, not 100% sure I had the right person, I ventured a guess “Jim Hickey??”.

Buffalo Reunion

Hidden behind hipster glasses and a well groomed Johnny-Depp-five-o’clock-shadow was my best friend from Junior and Senior year. The only person I’d ever met that was possibly as hyper as me. Somehow we had lost touch in the late 90s and never reconnected. Later I found out he is a total Facebook whore with over 800 friends. Had I been on Facebook we surely would have connected, shared some unenthusiastic stories and perhaps met for a drink some where down the road. Gone would have been a night of sheer elation at the coincidental meeting, of telling story after story of the past ten years and the resurrection of a small portion of my youth, however fleeting it was.

I say all this simply to illustrate the point that while I enjoy writing my blog entries and talking over IM with my friends the world across, its no substitute for the humility of a face-to-face interaction and the reaffirmation of kinship in a flesh and blood exchange. Ill continue these entries, even though the title of the blog is no longer relevant (perhaps I should change it to помочь я глупый [pomochʹ ya glupyĭ], doesnt quite roll off the touch does it), but please don’t confuse my ramblings here for a clear understanding of me or as a replacement for sitting in a bar in some shady eastern bloc country or on a snow-white beach in the south pacific talking about life, the future or my family.


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.

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.    

My First Tumor


Meet Ardi.  Ardi is a mature Indonesian man-boy who enjoys eating, sitting on his toy truck, a nice glass of cognac, pimpin’ hoes…. oh and 2 packs of cigarettes a day.

Is it just me or do you imagine this was Kim Jong Il 70 years ago?

If youre a parent and ever feel as though you are some what inadequate or perhaps didnt help your children develop to their full potential, I invite you to revisit this story to give you a shot of encouragement.  In unrelated news his father was recently nominated for both the prestigious Worst Father in History and Kim Jon Ils of Tomorrow awards.  My brother summed it up best, “Is life easier when you are that stupid?”.

I know what youre saying, “thats not real”, just watch the video. Im just impressed that he learned how to blow smoke rings in 4 months!


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


So I realize that I started this blog to share my stories of Indonesia with all my friends and that, at times, Ive had difficulty staying on topic. So let me get back on track with this one inspired by  Jacksons comment about waiting for me to “learn the ropes“.

Ive dealt with the money changers here at the airport, the tourist district (Jaksa) and the big malls. Heres what Ive learned:

  • The big malls have the best rates but are so annoying to deal with. They are so strict on the condition of the bills. They treat them as an antique dealer would a possible purchase. Realize they will inspect every bill front and back. When I first got here I had $6000 in $100 bills in Bank of America bill wrappers. Granted, one of them was 20 years old, but the rest were fine, some average wear and ranged in age from 4-8 years old.  They only took about $2000 worth, citing issues such as too much wear or folds, lower serial number ranges and if there were ANY tears at all, forget about it. Today I had $600 to exchange, one of the bills had a 2mm fold in the corner but was crisp and new and they wanted to give me a lower exchange rate because of this. 
  • $100 bills have a more favorable exchange rate than the $20s by about 2%. Anything lower than that will take 5-10% hit on the rate.
  • The tourist areas changers are less anal but their rates will be 2-5% lower than the malls.  Haggling is possible here, so feel free to walk away saying youll be back after you check around.  This may get you a better rate. I havent run into it but counterfeit bills are possible so check as much as you can. The more money you change, obviously, the more likely you are to get a good rate.
  • The airport has terrible rates.  If you have to, only change enough for your cab or food. The only upside is there is little chance for counterfeit bills.
  • You can always get currency using your ATM card but remember, in addition to the $5 fee your bank will hit you with, they will also charge you a 1.5-3% fee and the exchange rate will never be in your favor.

If any of you are into foreign currency trading the Indonesian Rupiah is rated as a strong currency for 2010.  This time last year the exchange rate against the dollar was 13,500.  Its now just under 9,000 and expected do about the same this year.  The recession mostly missed the Indonesian economy and the country is listed at the top of investment lists so there is a large influx of capital.

UPDATE:
Apparently even the US government is sick of these antics. I just got back from the embassy where a sign was posted something the effect of “Effective immediately all cash payments must be made in IDR (Indonesian Rupiah) due to financial institutions reluctancy to accept US Bills with wear or certain serial number block.”


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.


They put Lida on the 7pm flight out of Singapore and I changed my flight to that as well. It was great to finally see her. She told me about the night and what happened and we enjoyed a few beers looking forward to a real nights sleep in our bed.

When we arrived in Jakarta we were taken to the immigration office to be interviewed. After about an hour of waiting they informed us that because Lida was deported from Singapore she couldn’t enter Indonesia until she went back to Russia first.

Of coarse there were no more flights out the rest of the night, so she would have to spend the night in a holding area again. Luckily they allowed me to stay with her this time. Unfortunately, unlike Singapore, there were no beds. Just a dirty room with one chair.

We spent the night trying to sleep on a 3 by 2 foot mat and figure out what to do. The immigration officers say there will be no problem for her to come back right after she returns to Russia. It means that by the time she gets back here on Tuesday or Wednesday, provided there are no problems in Russia and the Indonesian Immigration officers were right that there will be no problems, she will have spent 6 straight days in airports across SE Asia, the Middle East and Europe.


Me. For some reason the “‘When I die, I want my ashes to be spread on Gili Trawangan,’ Matt says.” sees extremely dark as the opening line for a human interest piece but whatever.  They cut out the funny stuff about Ducks in Chinatown and Fireworks on Chinese New Year. This is my second brush with fame.  The first was about 11 years ago. I think Im gunna stick with IT services.

My First Google Visualization


Ok, so I promise I wont make this into a work blog but I do want to share something that Ive started working on.

I gave up application programming in 2005 in favor of focusing on Business Intelligence and Analytics implementations. I spent 7 years trying to create websites and Business Intelligence applications from scratch and found it highly unsatisfying.  Mostly because of my lack of talent.  I would spend months working on a component or website tool and upon completing a mediocre version of whatever it was that I was working on  I would typically find some free version or example of what I did that was far-and-away better than what I had created. I found using the tools that others had created to customize or enhance its usage was much more effective and satisfying.

One of the things that has worried me about selling Business Intelligence solutions in a 3rd world country has been software licensing cost. Indonesia is still an industrialized nation and many companies havent realized the value in large investments in technology.  Trying to sell the average company millions of dollars in hardware and software is a daunting task.  Those companies that are willing to invest that money are typically government-owned, which are the most corrupt sector of the market,  not to mention, require an extensive vetting process for any potential vendor.

With this I am testing out a new tool set released by Google called Google Visualization API which makes use of the Google Chart Tools. The API is based on JavaScript.  You can build great looking charts from line, bar, gauge and motion charts. Additionally, you can manually build your data in JavaScrirpt, link to Google Documents or write your own data source connections to live databases.  The API is simple to start but has the depth to be a very robust tool and Im really excited about code-diving with it.

So here is my Developing Asia Google Visualization, the data is from the International Monetary Fund, it took about 4 hours of reading and practice to create this but now that Ive got it down, as long as I have the data in the appropriate format I can turn these out in a matter of minutes. Click around and change the options, its quite amazing how interactive this tool is. Im going to continue working with this and Ill post some other examples I come up with in the future.


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.


For the first time since the end of January I put on my business cloths and went into an office. Lida and I had diner with the Indian guy we made friends with a while back at his place.  He invited us to come down to his office so Lida could meet the team, he said he might be able to get her a job there.

When we got there he asked me to give an impromptu talk with his team about team dynamics and efficiency.  Some how he got the impression that this was my specialty or he was just testing my ability to think on the fly. Either way it was definitely nice to get back into the office and do something other than brainstorm or come up with marketing material.

I’m becoming more skeptical that this business is going fly. The prospect of that doesn’t bother me so much per-say. I’ve grown accustomed to failure by now. After so many you learn to parlay your failures into credentials on your resume. It’s the prospect of going back to an office job and not being able to sleep in until 1pm.

I just need to make about $2000 a month to live very comfortably here. Its time to defy define mediocrity.

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.


Spent 4 hours at the immigration office today.  Heres how it went:

  • 12:30pm – Arrive, entire staff is on lunch break until 1
  • 1:10pm – Staff comes back and takes our forms (read:looks up from their paper where theyd been sitting the whole time)
  • 1:30pm – Woman reviews packet again and tells us to go make photo copies of our passports
  • 2pm – Woman reviews packet again and tells us to take packet to office across the hall
  • 2:10pm – Woman reviews packet and tells us to take packet to Mr. Daniel on the ground floor
  • 2:30pm – Mr. Daniel reviews packet and tells us to take packet to Mr. Uzu on the 3rd floor (Mr. Daniel’s counter part was playing Zuma while his office was literally stacked 2 meters high with red immigration packets and the next room looked like the scene at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc except with red packets)
  • 3pm – Mr. Uzu reviews packet and tells us to go to next window
  • 3:30pm – Man reviews packet and tells us to go down to cashier on the ground floor.
  • 3:35pm – Cashier says they are closed come back tomorrow, even though there are 5 people behind the desk and they obviously arent closed. Dirty German hippie that had followed the same steps behind us all day yells at them and got them to let us pay anyway.
  • 3:55pm – Cashier sends us back up to the first window on the 3rd floor.
  • 4:15pm – Original woman reviews packet, tells us to photocopy our passports again.  3rd floor copier is closed, sends us down to copier on 1st floor.
  • 4:30pm – Receive passport with one simple stamp and a signature.

 4 hours, 9 people, 7 stations…..taaaaaddaaaaaaaaa

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.

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.


For instance, Slavic people don’t like to smile in photos:

Belarus Winter Olympians – Maybe 4 but 3 of those aren’t so much a smile as it is a stretching of the mouth and at least 3 of the guys look like they killed the photographer right afterwards

UkrainianWinter Olympians – 5 and that’s being generous (Lada looks like she twitched before her picture)

Kazakhstan Winter Olympians – Wow, that’s a grand total of 0

Georgian Winter Olympians – I’ll give it 1 cause Nina really gave it the old Georgian try.

But I feel like the only reason Stefan is any good at Alpine Skiing is because he was one of the guys chasing James Bond down the mountain with a rifle at the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me

Interlude:

James Bond movies always baffled me. This scene in particular:

  1. Why is the worlds greatest agent wearing a yellow ski suit with orange boots? Isnt that counter productive for an undercover spy?
  2. Why do the Russian agents speak with an English accent, did they go to Oxford?
  3. Whats up with the one moron with a pistol? When he was preparing for this ill-conceived ambush and he had his choice of the KGB arsenal did he think that a snub-nosed pistol would be the most effective?  I mean really, youre skiing 3 meters behind him. Shotgun would be much more productive
  4. The rifles sure do make a lot of noise for having a silencer on them

Ok and now for the Slavics cheery counterparts.  Im gunna skip showing the Americans because its obvious we are always happy.  I mean we invented drive-through/fast food restaurant, the nuclear bomb and modernized porn.  Whats there not to be happy about?  So let’s go with some less obviously happy nations, like…..

Norwiegen Winter Olympians – Ive been there, theres no reason for them to be happy unless you like your food over-salted and pickled fish.

Italian Winter Olympians – Ive always said that Italy would be great if there werent any Italians but this group looks a lot more cheery than the “WOPs” I dealt with.

Canadian Winter Olympians – Canadas happiness can be gauged by their success in hockey.  While two Olympic gold medals in the past decade is all fine and good, Lord Stanley’s cup has been absent for the past 2 decades (0k 17 years to be exact), along with the loss of an NHL team in Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hamilton. Theres really no reason for them to be happy.


So the internet went down 2 days ago. Still can’t get it working. Tech has been here 2 hours and still no progress. Looks like I’m going to switch service this weekend. Besides a massive loss of productivity (that’s a joke) I’m pretty sure my fantasy hockey team is taking a nose dive at the most critical point of the season.

Described Business Intelligence to a mechanical engineer last night and he still didn’t get it. Looks like I’m going to have to write Business Intelligence for Dummys to convey basic business concepts. Only problem is I’m having no good or original ideas.

The Fear has set in and I’m starting to have anxiety attacks and asking myself the proverbial “what the hell am I doing?” questions. Even though I prepared myself and told everyone that I didn’t anticipate making any money for 6 months, the reality of it is much more difficult to handle.