Monday, June 13, 2005

Indonesian Beauracracy  

Monday night. It’s been a busy day, and now at home we are trying to get Lil D drink from a bottle, to his vast displeasure. He is not eating enough at the moment, thus waking up at all hours during the night demanding extra breast feeds. Teething has a lot to answer for.

Lil C is as good as ever, trying to distract him with plastic spoons and such like, but he is not happy about being deprived of the breast, so it looks like C will have to try and get him to feed again.

We are in count down mode now, awaiting the removalists who will come in and pack everything up on Thursday, leaving us with a few suitcases to live out of until we leave the following Tuesday. Hopefully, the removalists will meet us at the house when we arrive in the new city, and will then unpack and help us set up house again. At least, that’s the plan but this is Indonesia, and as all know, what can go differently, will go differently. Today was proof of that. My friend who bought the car off me wanted to put the car in his wife’s name. We discussed this with the company driver on Friday and set up for today to get the papers sorted. This is a mysterious process, one that for us mere mortals is far too intricate to be understood.

On arriving this morning we went looking for the driver and found him having breakfast at one of the food stalls on the side road beside the school. Handing him the papers, we went through what we wanted again, he wipes his mouth, nods, then calls over a fellow who is sitting on a motorbike nearby. Once again we go through the explanation, and he seems to know what we want, nodding sagely, telling us what he needs in order to put through the paperwork. Each form photocopied in triplicate, and a few hundred thousand to get the wheels rolling. We ask what will be the final cost and are assured it won’t be any more than Rp.500,000. We nod, pleased at this and leave him to it.

This afternoon, chat to the driver again whose minion is organising the process and he pulls out a bit of paper. ‘'Now' let's see'’ he says. ‘'The cost of the tax is Rp700,000, the stamps, Rp100,000, the something or another Rp50,000 and this is Rp100,000 and that is Rp75,000 and oh, don’t forget, the processing fee is Rp400,000. Grand total is Rp1,375,000’.' '‘Hang on! You told us this morning it would cost about Rp500,000!'’ ‘'Oh yes’,' he says triumphantly, '‘and look, I got the processing fee down to Rp400,000!’' ‘'Yes, but’,' we splutter, ‘'what’s the rest of this’?' ‘'Oh that!'’ He says, ‘'well that' (smiling benevolently upon us like a kind uncle explaining the simplest facts of live to two dullards), 'that is all the rest of the costs’'. '‘I see’,' we say weakly. ‘'But’,' he says, smiling even more, ‘'you don’t have to pay the balance until it’s all fixed!'’ '‘Oh, well, that’s good then’,' we say and stagger away.

Earnest small pow pow is the held under the shade of the motorbike park awning. ‘'So, what'’ll we do?'’ ‘'Look mate’,' I say, fixing him with what I hope is a knowledgeable look, ‘'you'’ve two options. Pay him, and put it down to experience, or stop the process. However, if he is telling the truth about the costs, it’'s loss of face to you. If he'’s not, then nothing harmed but still possibly an unhappy driver and his eager minion.'’

My friend ruminates and finally says the magic words that all us married men say when we are faced with an impossible decision and have no idea what to do: '‘I'’ll ask my wife’.' Relief flows over both of us. ‘'Good idea!'’ I cry, clapping him on the back. ‘'I’'m sure she'’ll know what to do’'. To be fair, his wife is Indonesian and thus may have a better insight into the whole thing, we foreigners are just way too unsure of the intricacies of the bureaucracy.

Speaking of which, to get the money for the car which my friend is paying in rupiah, we had to organise a bank account today which accepts rupiah, as my account is for US dollars. C comes and picks me up at the office and we wander down to the bank. In point of fact, she had gone there with Lil C last Friday, all forms filled out. After waiting for 45 minutes, she is told sweetly by the girl at the counter that I had to be there. So back we go today.

Again, we take a ticket, and though there are four counters, only two are being attended. You take a number, very civilised I think to myself, and await the big red number above the desks to change to your number. They were serving number 9 when we got there, and 40 minutes later our number, 13, is called. By this time I’m champing at the bit to just get this over with, one thing I have little patience for is standing in queues, and C, bless her knows this and usually sends me off on an errand while we’re waiting at the supermarket cashier. This time, however, there is no escape. I had to sit there and wait.

After ten minutes it got too much and I went to another bank two doors down to see if they were any faster. This time there are only two desks, both occupied by customers. I sigh and sit down and again, things move at snail pace. After 15 minutes I head back to the first bank where C is still waiting patiently. She smiles and I am grateful- she offers no comment. At least it gave me something to do. Once called to the desk, the passports are given over, forms handed with a slight quiver of the hand, wondering if at any stage we get the sweet smile and a gentle voice saying ‘but you have to have this done’, which would necessitate another visit. Fortunately, there is no hiccup. Until we come to the signing. I have signed all the forms, and she compares my signature with the one in my passport. ‘'You are missing this little squiggle here'’ she murmurs, and points to the offending signature. C looks at me, I look at C, and without a word, I re-sign all the documents and forms. Stamps are affixed, more signatures, and finally a passbook is given to us.

She tells us we can expect the Atm card next Monday. ‘'Yes, two cards right'’, I ask nonchalantly, thinking - just confirming, you never know. Indeed. ‘'Two?'’ She repeats, ‘'Oh, no, just one’'. ‘'But my wife will need a card’'. ‘'No, you are only entitled to one card’'. '‘But it’s a joint acct.'’ ‘'Yes, but joint accts only get one card’'. ‘'So how does my wife draw money?'’ The bank lady looks at me as if the answer is the most obvious thing out. ‘'Why, you give her your card to use!’' She smiles sweetly and tries not to look at me as if I'’ve just asked the most idiotic question. ‘'Yes, but what if I have the card and then she needs’'...and then it hits me. Why argue? This is Indonesia. We smile, thank her, and wander out into the humid daylight. Another seemingly illogical but perfectly sensible rule by the bank. If only one person of a joint bank account has a card, the other won't be tempted to take any money out before asking the wife. Perfect sense.


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