Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jakarta Revisited

Have just come back from a weekend in Jakarta catching up with an old drinking buddy and wandering around the city. It's the first time I’ve been back since we left last June and it was interesting to see the old place again.

To get there I booked a flight with Air Asia, one of the fastest growing airlines in Sth East Asia. It's very cheap, comfortable, no frills, and is run along the same lines as other budget airlines such as no food or drinks, and no seat allocation. Once on board, people rush to get to a seat, though the funny thing about Indonesians is that they all like to sit as far up front as possible (they like to make a fast exit as soon as the plane has stopped rolling). So, take your time and wander down to the back end where you will always get two or three seats to yourself, while the rest of the herd are crammed cheek to jowl at the front. Bring a bottle of water with you and kick back. The seats are far more comfortable than Qantas etc though the leg room is smaller.

So I get to Jakarta and pop over to the hotel reservations desk. Another tip, don’t book a hotel, use the reservation desk instead. I had spent the previous couple of nights going through the various web sites hunting down prices etc for Indonesian residents (they get a much cheaper rate than tourists and as a worker with the right papers I get the same rate). In the end I decided to chance it and wait till I got there. To my surprise, the prices were well below what I could have gotten on the net. Saved quite a bit, ended up at a very nice 3 star hotel in the city center for around AU$40.00 per night. Clean, good size room with king size bed etc etc. Very comfortable.

Spent Friday night out on the town which was a bit wild as all the bars were teeming. Hadn’t seen anything like it for ages. The penny dropped the next day when I discovered that due to the start of Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month, all clubs and bars were closed Saturday and Sunday. I groaned, just my luck. But it turned out okay. Did a lot of walking, wandered around the city, went to my fav DVD market which was in full swing, absolutely dozens of people madly packing copied DVD's into their sleeves, apparently the prohibition was at an end and everyone was busily making up for lost time. I expect to see the flow on effect in Surabaya within the next two weeks. And yes, it has taken a lot longer than originally expected.

Bought myself a mini DV player the size of a walkman, and did a lot of window shopping. Traffic was as expected, just crazy, and yet it was all so strangely familiar. I also visited a few malls and found that they were just as busy. People everywhere. Nothing stood out on this trip, but I enjoyed my time there, yet it was good to get back on the plane Monday midday and head home to Surabaya.

Things To Do On An Elevator

I just had to post this, thought it was very funny, along the lines of the practical jokes my father would pull...

Some fun things to do in an elevator:

1. Blow your nose and offer to show the contents of your kleenex to other passengers.
2. Grimace painfully while smacking your forehead and muttering: "Shut up, all of you just shut UP!"
3. When at least 8 people have boarded, moan from the back: "Oh, not now, motion sickness!"
4. Walk on with a cool box that says "human head" on the side.
5. Stare at another passenger for a while, then announce "You're one of THEM!" and move to the far corner of the elevator.
6. Ask each passenger getting on if you can push the button for them.
7. Say "I wonder what all these do" and push the red buttons.
8. Draw a little square on the floor with chalk and announce to the other passengers that this is your "personal space."
9. When the doors close, announce, "Don't worry, they'll open again soon."
10. Enforce a group hug.
11. Open your bag slightly and say, "Do you have enough air in there?"
12. Meow occasionally.

My father once got on and asked if the other passengers knew what to do if the elevator suddenly dropped. His advice? Grab the ceiling and lift your legs. The other passengers stayed
stiffly silent except for a little old lady who pulled his sleeve anxiously and asked "Where did you say I should grab?"

Meanwhile, don't go into any lifts, ever. I got into a lift once and when I got out again I was on a totally different floor.
Just yesterday I got trapped in a lift when it was going down. Really. This has also happened to some other people I know. Go figure...


Friday, September 15, 2006

Docs and Medicine

There appears to be a huge discrepancy between western expectations of costs and what actually transpires in regards to medicine and doctors here. Like any third world country, medicines are hugely expensive, and with no social security system it s no wonder that the child mortality rate is so high. Doctors on the other hand, including specialists and dentists etc are incredibly cheap. This I know because in the space of three weeks we have had to use a plastic surgeon and a high tech dentist with all the latest gadgets festooned around her office. All highly impressive, including banks of screens off to one side of the dreaded chair, with an assortment of tools reminiscent of Dr.McCoys patient room. So, anyway, as I was saying, in three weeks our little one, the holy terror of the house, has caused much angst.

Three weeks ago he took a flying leap off the couch, landed on his knees and stopped his forward momentum by using his forehead against the edge of the glass coffee table. Score table 1, Lil D 0. A rush to the hospital with a bleeding forehead and the nurse there takes a look and says wait for the doc, looks like a three stitch job. Visions of a massive buccaneer scar across our precious Lil one’s forehead, stitch indentations and all, loom frighteningly. C asks for the plastic surgeon and one finally turns up. He is amazingly gentle and considerate of both a frightened little boy and his distressed mother. Two jabs with a needle to kill the pain and four stitches inside the cut, and three on the outer. Takes half an hour, but he does an impressive job. His fee? About AU$20.00. The anesthetic is another story. The two small jabs cost AU$200.00. The other bits and pieces etc another AU$40.00.

A return visit a week later proves he had done the job well. A small scar, almost imperceptible. We heave a sigh of relief and all seems to settle down.

Until today.

Once again Lil D takes matters into his own hands and decides, while he is at a music appreciation group for toddlers, to pick up a wooden block, stick it into his mouth and run around the room. Undoubtedly he must have thought the block would give him super powers, or possibly he had watched too many national geographic shows and thought it was a good way to stop any possible epileptic fits. Whatever he was thinking, C makes a grab for him, he leaps over her outstretched arm, and lands on his face, shoving the wooden block against his top front teeth, causing one to twist and be pushed halfway back into the gum. Blood everywhere.

This time to the dentist. She can’t take an x-ray, Lil D won’t open his injured mouth, but she does get a look at the tooth and says we’ll have to wait until the swelling dies down. What swelling C asks? Sure enough, this evening his top lip looks like some sort of grotesque Mick Jagger copy. The poor lil mite is miserable, cant swallow or refuses too, can’t talk, and can’t lie face down on his mum’s lap the way he likes too. We are also faced with the prospect that the tooth will have to be pulled, leaving our sunny smiling son with a gap where one should not be.

Both C and I know it’s going to be a long night tonight.

Oh, and the dentist with all the sophisticated gadgetry that would put a space station to shame? AU$19.00 for the consultation.


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