Monday, February 26, 2007

So, you're probably wondering why I suddenly started to post some pictures of Surabaya. Simple really. Some of the last posts have been somewhat jaundiced in discussing whats been going on in Indonesia. Thought it was about time to post some images that may be of interest and take a break from waffling.

The pictures chosen are great but my favourites are of the people, the street kid holding a baby, begging on the side of a busy road, the man in the wet marketplace, two old women walking past in traditional costume, and the becak driver relaxing at a night market after a busy day.
Each has a personal story to tell, and it is up to the viewer to think of one that fits.

We can never know the reality of their lives, but when someone snapped their picture, a brief moment in time was captured, and it leaves you wondering, what happened next? Where did they go? what happened to the boy and the baby? are they okay? is the becak driver still peddling along the streets of Surabaya? and what of the old women? where were they going? were they dressed like that because it was a special day or do they always dress traditionally? The very fact that there are no answers only make the pictures more intriguing.

Photographs force us to stop, even if only for a second; we look, try to make sense of what we see, then either move on or ...stop again. And think. Wonder. Contemplate. And that small voice reminds us that it is only by sheer luck of birth that we are not in their place. A humbling thought.


Train stations of Surabaya: Gubeng Station and Pasar Turi Station, the two main stations servicing west and north Java.


Surabaya Port, a main street and a couple of skylines.


Different markets in Surabaya.


The above pictures, taken in Surabaya, were found in PBase Galleries. I liked them for the stories they tell.


Once again.

I will have to do a hunt for good news stories, and I will. But in the meantime, another transport disaster.

The recent disasters of planes, trains and ferries are beginning to take on nightmarish proportions as once again there has been another calamity in transport, this time the "Levina I" ferry, owned by PT Praga Jaya Sentosa, which began to burn on Thursday at around 5:20 a.m. It had been sailing for six hours on its way to Pangkal Balam port on Bangka Island, 517 kilometers northwest of Jakarta. As of Thursday night, at least 16 people were known to have died, more than 50 were reported missing by their families and dozens were injured after jumping off the burning ship. Once again, the passenger manifest was incomplete, and no one knows for sure just how many were on board. According to the manifest, a total of 275 people were on board. The boat also carried 40 trucks, eight sedans and five motorcycles. Estimates of passengers now range up to 350.

The count as of today (Monday 26/02) is now 48 passengers dead. Then further disaster. A report quickly made the headlines yesterday of an unbelievably foolish exercise by a group of journalists and two officials. Despite warnings, they climbed onto the ferry on Sunday. Not long after going aboard, the ship began to list further to one side, and then promptly sank. Two journalists and the two officials drowned.

One of the saddest tales of the journalists is of one cameraman who refused to let go of his camera despite pleas from the guy holding him in the sea. Who knows what his thoughts were, maybe he didn’t want to face his office without the camera. The guy holding him couldn’t hang on, so the cameraman drowned.

The Jakarta Post reports:

The incident occurred around noon when investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the National Police's forensic laboratory and the Water Police were going over the vessel, which caught fire Thursday. Twelve TV reporters and cameramen from Indosiar, Metro TV, ANTV, Lativi, RCTI and SCTV were accompanying the investigators.

Lativi cameraman Suherman, 33, died when the ferry sank. As of Sunday night, SCTV's Muhammad Guntur and forensic officers Adj. Sr. Comr. Widodo and Comr. Widiantoro remain missing. Officials originally planed to tow the vessel to Tanjung Priok Port before boarding it for the investigation. However, for reasons that remain unclear they decided to enter the wreckage before it was towed, some seven mile from port.

An Elshinta radio reporter, Mardianto, who was on the wreckage, said the accident happened so fast the people on board barely had time to save themselves. "Driven by curiosity, we entered the ship though some officers warned us that it was not safe," Mardianto told The Jakarta Post on Sunday. The officers offered the journalists life jackets but few accepted.

And for the dumbest quote of the week:

A search and rescue official in Jakarta, Dadang Arkum, said it was unlikely the three missing people would be found alive. "We are hoping for the best, but in reality if people go under the water and do not come back up within five minutes, they are most likely dead." You think?

This was another terrible tragedy that may have been averted with proper controls, maintenance and safe guards. Sooner or later, the government will have to step in and bear the responsibility of checking all public transport. Until they do, don't be surprised to see further disasters such as this occurring.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

It’s official, my brother is coming out from good ol’ Perth to join yours truly for a week in Bali plus a couple of days in Surabaya. Now if I could only get my eldest bro to join us!

Anyway, it got me to thinking of sites that might help those who are contemplating going to Bali. Bali has had quite a few up and down years due to the bombings, and while tourists are starting to come back, the numbers from Aussie are significantly down. My bro tells me it now costs AU$1000.00 for a return flight and a weeks accommodation from Perth Not like it used to be. But if you’re inclined, it’s still worth coming over for a week or so. Bali still has a lot to offer once you get past the tourist traps, the hawkers and so on. Given that it’s right next door we have gotten a bit lazy about going over, though quite a few friends will hop over for the weekend. So, about time to visit again.

Tickets return from Surabaya run about AU$90.00 which isn’t too bad considering. You can get accommodation from as little as AU$15.00 upwards, and the budget places are not necessarily dives. However, have to admit that I’ve come to like some creature comforts so am staying at what appears to be a fairly nice place called Dewi Sri Hotel in Kuta. Rooms are a bit cheaper as I can use the Kitas (the visa given to working expatriates) rate. For instance, for the hotel I’m staying at, I get US$18.00 off the internet rate, from $50 to $32. So if you know someone who lives in Indonesia, book through them, however, they have to go with you! I could probably get it cheaper again if I walked off the street but for this short trip I don’t want the hassle of wandering round hotels bargaining. Must be getting old!

Last time I was in Bali I stayed in Kuta and swore I would never go back there, way too busy for a relaxing holiday, Sanur is much nicer. However, it has to be admitted that Kuta has more to do and see. And given that we will be doing rather than sitting on a beach, Kuta is probably the best option.

Ok, so you’re contemplating coming to Bali, want to know what to do and most importantly, where to stay. The following sites have quite a bit to offer.

This is a huge site offering links to all things Bali. Just about everything you could want to find is listed here.

Mic’s board is an excellent resource, giving good info about all manner of things. In particular, though certainly not least, it has a very good section on accommodation, with people posting in with info on where they have stayed and their reviews etc.

Bali Expatriate Forums - About Travel and Living in Bali. Another forum with all manner of information. It is aimed at expats who are moving to or are living in Bali but you can get quite a bit of useful info from this forum.

Hungry and not sure where to go? Check out this site, reviews of restaurants from cheap to expensive. Worth wandering around.

A budget accommodation site which may or may not give you best prices. Worth checking out but always, always, go elsewhere to countercheck; you’d be surprised by the price differences between sites.

A travel agent situated in Bali, offering discounts etc on accom. Check it out, it does have some good deals every now and then.

Trip Advisor is a good place to drop in and see what other people think of a place you are contemplating staying at.

I’ve always found Asiarooms very helpful. While at times their rates are not as good as elsewhere, they offer a wide variety and price range. Also, reviews can be found on specific hotels.

Asiahotels is another site offering both discounts and reviews. While I’ve found their discounts to be only average compared to some other sites, it does offer good details and reviews on hotels so if you have a place in mind, drop in and see what they or travellers have to say.

Some interesting info from an expat who lives in Bali. Has a blog on what to do and see etc. Worth checking out.

If you have a family, this site is well worth visiting. Gives a lot of good information on what to do, places to stay etc that are family friendly.

Another forum on people talking about Bali. Have to wade through all manner of posts on everything from cant get a ticket refund to travel warnings but it may offer some insights into something you are interested in.

Finally, I couldn’t resist including this link. It has absolutely nothing to do with Bali, but is a great blog of humorous pictures, well worth a visit. Some of the authors comments to go along with the pictures are priceless.

Have fun!


Fitness Links

Ok, so I did promise the site with all the good stuff on workout routines etc. See the last couple of links. But there are two others that you also might find interesting. The links are by no means the be all and end all of health sites, but after wandering the net I figure these are up there with the best.

If you have always wondered about those hidden belly muscles that we poke and prod in the bathroom late at night to see if they really do exist. I have it on good authority they do, just requires getting rid of the protective layer most of us have so fondly nurtured and cared for over the past umpteen years. However, I’m not going to get into a long and rambling discussion on fat loss etc, that’s something you’ll have to figure out on your own. You do, however, need the right advice to make your abdominal muscles look good. Thus, I bring you with great fanfare and trumpets and all that sort of thing: Top 10 Most Effective Ab Exercises

Then there is the truth, the absolute truth and nothing but the truth, so help me…well, you get the idea. It’s all about knowing the fundamentals of fitness. Now before you roll your eyes and turn the page or whatever it is you do, knowing the basics does help, and the truth is out there, so seek and ye shall find.

There is such a plethora of fitness and health sites out there that I couldn’t possibly cover them all, so instead, here is one that encapsulates most of what the others are saying. It’s not exhaustive in detail but it does have a series of short articles which provide a starting point.

Now, if you are starting to sit up a bit in your chair and thinking, maybe I should be looking into this a bit further, then this is the ideal site. Yes, this site also focuses on selling products, but then again, they do have to do something to make it worthwhile. I found it to be very good, with hundreds of articles and workout routines. It is comprehensive, well designed, and even has short videos you can play to see just how one is supposed to do a particular exercise. Beats paying a personal trainer for the same thing. Click on this to figure out what sort of routine works best for you. Enter a few details and it comes back with a range of different routines based on your criteria.

Happy hunting!

PS In case you were wondering, I’m not affiliated, connected to, nor have any form of shallow and/or meaningful relationships with any of the above sites.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Another bad week for Adam Air. Earlier this week a bunch of their staff was hauled in for questioning. Seems they were changing passenger ticket records and stating they were in transit rather than landing, then pocketing the tax difference.

"On paper, this caused a reduction in the total amount of air passenger duty collected. The duty is payable according to how many passengers are departing the country. This allowed Adam Air employees to get away with depositing less with the airport operator," officer Guntur said. …Police have yet to calculate the potential loss of airport tax revenue to the state. "We cannot put a figure on it until we have processed identification data on passengers against the data entered in the system. We have to dig deeper," he said. He said the duty on flights was Rp 30,000. "It's been going on since August and possibly even before that. If they collected Rp 30,000 from even 50 passengers a day, you can imagine how much money they made." (Jakarta Post, Wednesday 21/02)

Then, on Wednesday afternoon, the news gets out very quickly that on landing, an Adam Air flight decides to do a belly flop, and promptly cracks in half.

The various airline officials earnestly tell the public that it was stormy and as such, necessitated a “hard landing”. Hard enough to crack the plane in two.

Natalia Budihardjo, a district manager for PT Adam Skyconnections Airlines, said the aircraft had encountered poor conditions. "The weather was extremely bad during the landing, with heavy rain and strong wind. The sudden stop of the plane was the best decision by the pilot for the safety of the passengers," she said. (Sudden stop?)

Natalia said the aircraft was airworthy before taking off from Jakarta. "A few minutes before landing it was reported that the plane received wind pressure from above, or what we call a downdraft," Adam Air safety and security director Hartono told MetroTV. "The pilot tried to recover (control of the plane) but it was too close to the runway and caused the plane to land a bit harder than usual," he said.
(Love the understatement here of a “bit harder”…enough to crack the plane in two) (Jakarta Post, Thursday 22/02)

No fatalities, but the story gets weirder. Adam Air, apparently pissed off at all the attention the plane was getting, decided to have it painted white the following day, thus hiding its logo.

Finally, a picture taken on board the plane moments after crash landing of what must be a classic passenger evacuation. Forget getting off the plane asap, 148 people vie to get their
baggage out of the overhead lockers first, while the fumes of leaking fuel spread through the plane….

(All links in this post courtesy of “Sam” who posted them on


Thursday, February 22, 2007

A few people have asked me about the training I do these days so here is a new schedule I just started three weeks ago. I have weaned myself off the machines almost completely, preferring to use free weights for almost all exercises now. The schedule I’m on is called an upper body 4 day split routine. There are two workouts, they run consecutively, so workout 1 is on Monday and Thursday, workout 2 on Tuesday and Friday. Wednesday and the weekend are rest days. I’ll run this routine for ten weeks then take a week off before starting a slightly different routine to avoid any stagnation of mind or body!

Weights are varied, but dumbbells all start at 30 kgs and run up to 50 kgs depending on what I’m doing. Bench press is only at 70 kgs at the moment but I hope this will change with this new routine. I have found that in the past three weeks alone the weights have increased fairly well. I’m sure this will stop at some point for most exercises until I’ve made real progress into the routine. It’s possible that the increase was always on the cards and was just waiting for my body to get used to the free weights .i.e. independent lifts.

I also mix up some of the exercises below and don’t always follow them slavishly down the list. This helps keep the routine fresh. Workout 1 takes the longest, averaging about 85 minutes (then again, I do take a few breaks to rest the arms!), whereas workout 2 is quite quick, I can get through it within 60 minutes.

If you’re interested in where I got the routine from, there is a great site which carries a great number of articles and advice as well as workout routines by the dozen, if not hundreds. And just at the moment, I can’t find it. I’ll post it next time.


Workout #1

Workout #2

Bench Press - 10-12 Reps x 3

Tricep Curl - 10-12 Reps x 3

Lateral Raise - 10-12 Reps x 3

Dumbell Curl - 10-12 Reps x 3

Dumbell Row - 10-12 Reps x 3

Concentration Curl - 10-12 Reps x 3

Military Press - 10-12 Reps x 3

Forearm Curl - 12 Reps x 3

Incline Dumbell Press - 10-12 Reps x 3

Preacher Curl - 10 Reps x 3

Dumbell Flyes - 10-12 Reps x 3

Tricep Pushdown 10-12 Reps x 3

Incline Dumbell Flyes - 10-12 Reps x 3

Hammer Curl 10-12 Reps x 3

Upright Barbell Row - 10-12 Reps x 3

Dorsi Flexor Machine 10-12 Reps x 3 - Second grip, upright back.

Cable Cross 10-12 Reps x 3

Crunches - 20-25 Reps x 2

Pec Fly Machine 10-12 Reps x 3

Push-ups - 15 Reps x 2

Dorsi Flexor Machine 10-12 Reps x 3

Crunches - 20-25 Reps x 2


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Saturday afternoon.

The house is just starting to come alive with the chatter of the children after a lengthy afternoon sleep for all. One by one, lulled by the rain, we all succumbed to its soothing tones and headed to our respective bedrooms. A lovely sleep but as usual, after having slept in the middle of the afternoon, a civilised practice if there ever was one, you feel just a tad disorientated, taking time to wake up. The body feels lethargic, and the brain takes in its surrounds with something akin to mild surprise. Patsy makes me a triple espresso, thanks to the wondrous machine that sits pride of place on the kitchen bench, a Krupps no less, and I sip it slowly, savouring the rich strong flavour. A kretek to make it complete and I’m starting to feel a bit more human.

Just received an sms from C who is stranded in Denpasar, no doubt pacing the airport as she waits for the plane to bring her home after a month away from her family. She has already been waiting for 4 hours, and I can sense her frustration from here as the powers that be announce a one hour delay. This is Garuda we are talking about, the safest airline in Indonesia, but also notorious for its jam karet (rubber time). So, the children wander about the house in an unconscious parody of their mother, voices raised in protest every now and then at the doings of the other, and I sit here, sipping coffee and waiting as well.

Suki, our driver, is outside polishing the car, making sure it’s spic and span for ibu, Patsy has spent the day with Banti making the house over, and I was out front using the ridiculously small electric grass cutter to mow the lawn. After a final inspection of everything, all seems in order.

The house holds it breath. It will soon be time when C comes home.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Some Stats
On Tuesday the Jakarta Post printed a report by Roy Morgan and gave us the following statistics:

3 % of Indonesians earn over 2 million rupiah (AU$422.00 or US$331.00) per month

83 % of the population run kerosene stoves

2 % have a microwave

95% have a TV

9 % have a washing machine

6 % intend to buy a gas stove

1 % intend to buy a microwave

75 % have a DVD or VCD player

22 % are mobile phone subscribers

I’ll leave you to make your own conclusions on the above numbers but what struck me was the fact that there is only 3 % who earn a salary of some real worth.

I just can’t help but wonder at the fortitude of the people who have little, yet in the cities are surrounded by expensive malls, cars, houses etc. It would seem to be a testament to the strength of character of the average Indonesian that envy is not a major consideration. If it was, the 3 % would be in a lot of trouble.

One last statistic: 158 million of a total population of 220 million are above the age of 14. That means that there are roughly 62 million children in Indonesia. That’s a lot of schools. The constitution provides a figure of 20% of the budget to be spent on education. This figure has not been achieved yet. I believe the figure is much less, about 11%. Schools are falling down all over the country, teacher salaries are so low it doesn’t provide enough to live on, hence second jobs for a lot of teachers, and school fees, while outlawed, are still charged by most schools as a matter of survival, passing the costs of trying to keep a school running onto the parents who can ill afford it. The recent announcement by the World Bank that Indonesia has reached a surplus of 15 billion dollars is heartening, yet the distribution of such a sum would require incredible tenacity to see it passed on down the line.

Let's hope it gets to where it is most needed.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Future of Jakarta

Something people ask what it’s like to live in Jakarta. Jkt is a city you either love or hate, but even those who love the city can see that it is spiralling down to a future of gridlocked streets, little if any infrastructure, and no bright future in sight. In short, Jakarta is pretty much finished. I know this rather bold statement will probably raise howls of protest (or at least an eyebrow or two) but it just can not be sustained as a capital city of business when it is collapsing at the knees. It would require enormous political and community will to change things there, something that does not exist at the moment, nor will it. The city will stumble on for years to come, falling further and further into disarray, crumbling roads, buildings scarred by toxic fumes, cement rot and structural problems in a lot of buildings a few years old, rubbish piling up in the rivers and canals, and roads hopelessly snarled by a cacophony of motorcycles, cars, trucks and belching buses. The above picture was taken on Friday by the Jakarta Post of one toll road in Jakarta.

Jakarta just cannot sustain itself as a major city when to get from one end of town to the other takes hours. Newly arrived Jen of Queensland, speaks of spending 4.5 hours in the car just to drop her husband off to work. Then she has some errands to run:
I had an appointment with our Real Estate broker at 11am which we decided to keep. What a loooooong day. We drove two km to collect Ms Linda (a wonderfully sprite Indonesian lady in her seventies), then 3km to the fabric shop where I spent 8-10 minutes selecting the fabric for curtains (cream sheers with lining), and then back to our new home which is 400m from Ms Linda’s home (where we collected her from at the start of the day). This took 5 hours, I kid you not, absolutely no exaggerating - 10.15 am to 3.30pm.

Recent mediaplay is starting to give some credence to the thought of the un-sustainability of Jakarta:

Keith Loveard, a consultant with the security firm Concord, believes Jakarta's future as Indonesia's administrative and business centre is in doubt. Aside from the ever present risk of floods, the city is exhausting its supply of ground water - resulting in subsidence leaving 40 per cent of Jakarta below sea level.

Yesterday the National Awakening Party, the third-largest in parliament, said the flood showed Jakarta needed to be relocated. "Jakarta is now too chaotic, and its ability to support both the centre of the country's government and the centre of the country's economy is declining," the parliamentary leader, Muhaimin Iskandar, said.

I would argue that while the city continues to operate as it does, allowing an ever increasing number of vehicles on its roads, ignoring sanitation, flood control, public transport etc, it wont be long before it grinds to a standstill.

An article in the Jakarta post in 2004 stated: A recent study has highlighted the depressing prospects for future traffic conditions in the city. Average traveling speed in 2020 will be a snail's pace of just 10 kilometers per hour. Travel time will increase by over 50 percent. Over 2.5 million cars and 3.8 million motorcycles are already fighting for space on the city's 7,500 kilometers of road. No relief is in sight, with an estimated 300 new cars and 1,200 new motorcycles hitting the streets daily.

Their solution:

Piecemeal solutions like the busway, the three-in-one corridors, and the planned monorail are unlikely to alleviate, let alone solve, our daily traffic misery.
It's not just about the traffic or of building rapid mass-transport systems. It's also about Jakarta dispersing and possibly reallocating future developments to the outskirts of the city so that people will not flock into just one area; it is about the police being able to create a safer environment so public transport users will not fear being mugged; it is about real estate developers constructing satellite towns which are truly independent in terms of basic infrastructure. More importantly, it is also about ourselves, gallantly relinquishing luxuries such as our car and opting for the bus, the train or even the bicycle.

Other solutions to transport can be implemented. A report on transport states:

Today’s technologies also allow users to be charged varying prices, depending on the time of day and the level of congestion. This is important because the cost of road space varies enormously by the place and the time of day. The cost of travel at times and places when there is free flow is much lower than at peak congestion bottlenecks. Therefore, one of the most effective forms of traffic management is to price road use according to current demand, thereby preventing overload and a damaging breakdown in traffic flow.

Two California toll roads, SR 91 Express Lanes and I-15FasTrak, have tested this theory by implementing a concept called value pricing. The charge for both roads is calculated according to the value in time saved that motorists would get from using the toll lanes. The prices vary directly with the level of congestion in the free lanes alongside the toll road. A simple computer programme relates different traffic densities to different rates and automatically readjusts tolls. The results have been impressive: peak-hour trip times on the toll lanes are about two-thirds less than the parallel free road.

The report also points to London:

London has long suffered from some of the worst traffic in Europe. Every weekday morning the equivalent of 25 busy motorway lanes of traffic tried to enter central London. Drivers entering the city would spend half their time in queues. This cost the local economy £2–4 million every week in lost time.

Since February 2003 when London’s congestion charge went live, it has had a major impact on local gridlock:

Traffic speeds are up 37 percent;
Congestion is down 40 percent during charging hours;
The number of vehicles driving within the zone has fallen by 16 percent; and
Journey time on a round trip to and from the zone has dropped 13 percent.

However, they do admit to some problems:

Enforcement has been one of the biggest challenges of the scheme. There have been problems with stolen license plates, drivers incorrectly entering registration details, and criminals replicating the license plates of other motorists. Several measures have been taken to address these problems, ranging from asking drivers to confirm certain details when they set up their accounts to using vans to track persistent evaders.
Though it is still in its early days, several lessons have already emerged from the London experience: 1) strong political commitment by the mayor ensured that the charge went ahead despite several attempts by opponents to delay and undermine it; 2) reinvesting all revenues in transport improvements increased public acceptance; and 3)consulting the public on key aspects of the scheme helped avoid mass opposition.

Okay, so this is one possibility. It does ignore all those who could not afford to pay, which in Jakarta’s case would be a significant proportion of its residents. So, before any such measures could be introduced, public transport would require major overhauling.

Secondly, such a scheme would require enormous political will and courage. So far, such courage is lacking from top to bottom of both local and national governance.

However, Jakarta is still faced with the problems of failing medical, education, housing and sanitation services, not to mention a population of anywhere from 10 million to 20 million depending on who you talk to. The government has just announced a new transmigration program, encouraging people to move to another part of Indonesia where they would be given land and tools etc and supported for one year. Needless to say, transmigration has not been a successful program in the past and somehow I don’t think it will be in the future due to familial and cultural reasons.

It’s a depressing future for Jakarta at the moment, and unless the government sits down and does something it will not have a future. Then again, who am I kidding? The government has hemmed and hawed its way through the mudflow problem in East java, a flow that could have been stopped by overseas experts if Lapindo had actually been willing to pay for it. When the imported guys requested funding and unlimited access to the field, guaranteeing they could put a stop to it before Christmas, they were refused (turns out Lapindo is insolvent, thus the guy who owns it would have had to put his hands in his own cookie jar). So, they went home. And the mud keeps flowing. And now the owner has been told by the president to fork out 422 million dollars in compensation to the evicted residents, factories etc, out of his own pocket.

The latest news is that if Porong Road goes, and this looks likely, major lines providing communication (phone, net etc) to south east Java and Bali will be cut. Further, 20% of the water supply to Surabaya will be lost. Then there is of course the fact that the road is now the major road for all transport, not to mention the railway line that runs alongside it. And don’t forget the gas pipe line (which erupted killing 12 even though the imported guys warned Lapindo months earlier this would happen) that runs alongside the railway.

But I digress. Jakarta is a fascinating city of extremes. Sadly, there is just no real solution in sight for its continued existence.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Some Nights

There are some things in life you don’t really think about until you lose it, or, in our case, if it goes awol. No explanation, no excuse me, nor any sort of sheepish ‘oops’ when it materialised a few hours later. By the time it did come back, I was exhausted, the kids were wrecks, and the only thing that had kept us going was the dim hope that it would come back in enough time to ensure a blessed nights sleep.

Maybe we have been too long here, we seem to lack that certain cheerful “she’ll be right mate”, the catch phrase of the ever optimistic aussie. Then again, at around midnight when you are dealing with two wide awake children, the phrase rings a bit hollow.

The kids were soundly asleep in bed, the time was nearing ten pm and I was about to head upstairs, curl up with my latest book and peruse a few pages before turning off the lights.

However, best laid plans and all that. The powers that be have a mind of their own, they turned the lights off for me. Completely. The computer died, the TV whines to a sudden halt and I was left gazing around in pitch black darkness. Not so bad I thought, soon be on again. But it didn’t come on. Not even a squeak.

Grabbed a torch and went outside. The whole street was down. Went to my room, opened my bedroom door which had been closed all day and was assailed by a muggy heat. The aircon, the first automatic reflex in such situations, remained steadfastly silent. Cursing the unseen gnomes who willy nilly switch off entire areas for reasons only known to themselves, I tried to make the best of it.

Was trying to get asleep when Lil C suddenly pops up beside me.

‘Papa’, she whimpers, ‘I’m so hot, I can’t sleep’.

I curse the aircons, the gnomes, the time of night and get a wet towel to cool her off. She lies beside me, tossing and turning and then, lo and behold, another little head pops up beside me.

‘Wha happin papa, wha happin? My arkon why not working?’ asks this high pitched little voice.

I blearily survey Lil D who is looking a bit hot but bouncy all the same and curse again. Once awake, he is the devils own to get back to sleep again. He joins us, though Lil C takes exception to his wanting to sleep as close as possible to her and cries a protest. Lil C rolls towards me and I am assailed by this hot little body trying to sneak under my arm.

I get up and try to sleep at the end of the bed, no good. Too hot. Begin debating on opening the windows; which is worse, the mosquitoes that will undoubtedly enter with ravenous eyes and beak, or swelter. Dengue or smother in heat? The choice is easy. I open the windows. Not a breath of air comes through but the room seems to cool a bit.

We lie there, shifting, tossing and breathing heavily, yet Lil D seems blissfully unaware and remains comfortably ensconced on my pillow.

I give up and head downstairs to lie on the couch thinking it might be a bit cooler and not so bouncy.

Five minutes later, a little voice gains volume on the upstairs landing.

‘Papaaaaaaa, where arrrrr yooooo??’ Lil D to be sure.

Head back up. Lil C is still awake and demanding action this instant, ‘why can’t they turn the power back on?’

I agree silently and try to be humble, thinking of all those suffering in Jakarta at the moment without homes, around 320,000 displaced due to the flooding. The Minister for Peoples Welfare, the same guy who owns the company responsible for the mud flow in East Java displacing near 12000 people, says the floods are not so bad, people are smiling and laughing, so what’s all the fuss? The outrage caused by this comment hits the news stands all over the country. Easy enough for him, the general response seems to be, he has a nice home to go to. While, we…and the many descriptions of mud battered homes, illness and misery are made. You have to wonder sometimes at the sheer idiocy of those who are in power.

But back to my trying to be humble. Doesn’t work, too hot to be humble.

Finally, after repeated trips to: get a drink for Lil C, wet towels, another pillow, a cloth to mop up Lil C’s spilled drink, then another drink, …..the power comes back on. The shriek of joy from Lil C was ear-splitting but under the circumstances I felt it was justified. Check my watch, 12.50am. Power had been off for nearly 3 hours.

The kids are told to head for bed after aircons are switched on etc, but Lil D decides now is the time to act up and refuses to go to his room, nor mine. He wants to sleep with Lil C on her single bed. This would be a first and I allow him, thinking he would roll off soon enough and go to his own bed (though I do take pity and put a pillow on the floor beside the bed to dampen his fall). I had to get up in 5 hours and was in no mood for further argument but in my defence, I did hope his fall wouldn’t be too damaging.

Morning comes and I find them sleeping peacefully next to each other.

I look at them fondly, so cute, so peaceful, what lovely kids etc etc ….then Lil D wakes up.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Well, after a few false starts I finally found someone to replace Anik, our cook, until she is well enough to come back to work. I put the word out amongst the expats, thinking this time I need to hire someone who comes recommended given I’m not home during the day and since C is away in Australia

This is quite common here, someone will hear from someone once you put the word out and then you get calls and visits from all sorts. We even had the wife of one of the complex guards come round but Patsy (our nanny extraordinaire) and Suki (our driver) veto the idea as then the guards would know too much about us and our private lives. I agree. Maids are terrible gossips! and drivers, and workmates, and...

So, I get a phone call from an Indonesian woman I don’t know saying she knows someone who might be willing to work for us.

Great! I say to the caller, send her around.

She’ll come the following night, and then she casually drops into the conversation that the maid used to work for friends of ours.

After getting off the phone with her, I ring the friends who are slightly puzzled. Yes, she did, left to have a baby but she started working for another mutual friend of ours last week. I’m confused, and tell our friend that she is supposed to be coming round for an interview the next night.

The next night, the Indonesian woman rings again, apologises and says she will come the next night with the maid as they can’t make it that night. I tell her not to bother as she is working for friends of ours. A long silence.

Well, she has a sister… so, how bout the first maid comes round, you talk to her and if you like her, hire her sister…

But why? I query. I need to talk to the sister, not the maid who is working for our friends. We go back and forth like this for awhile and finally settle on the sister coming round Friday night. Still puzzled as to what she was thinking…was she expecting me to hire the maid when I met her and forget about the sister…was there even a sister?

The next day, L, our friend who is currently employing the aforesaid maid, rings me, hearing on the grapevine that her maid was to come for an interview. I hasten to reassure her that it’s not happening as didn’t want to take her away from them. She is relieved but obviously also worried cos if the maid is looking for other work; this means she is not happy, which causes all sorts of problems for my friend who has three kids and both parents working as teachers.

The same night another woman rings, introduces herself as Banti, and politely asks if the job is still available. I say yes, but I’m expecting someone to turn up that night (another person from a friend of ours had expressed interest) and ring again the following morning (Saturday).

The friends maid didn’t turn up that night. Nor did the sister of the friends maid.

Banti rings the next day at 6.30am, obviously keen. Patsy answers the phone and they organise for her to turn up at midday by which time we’ll be back from the kids swimming.

She duly turns up and appears to be a solid dependable type, worked for a German couple for five years then a Swedish guy for a year until last November. He was single, she says, and so…

So? I ask, a bit hesitant, thinking, she is a bit old to be hit on by her employer.

He brought women of the night around a lot, she tells me disapprovingly.

I see, I say, well don’t worry, ibu (C) would never let women of the night come around here. She gives me a small smile.

She is willing to cook, and help Patsy around the house, telling me she is used to taking care of most things. The confident manner in which she talks indicates to me that she just might be the person we are looking for. I forgot to ask her just what does she cook, Indonesian or European, but guess it doesnt matter as we almost always eat Indo food. However, given her past employers, we might be in for German/Swiss dishes....

She tells me she has a daughter, and as so often for mothers working as maids etc, the daughter lives with her grandparents. The daughter is 14, goes to a local high school in Kediri, a small city 90 minutes away. But we see each other at least twice a year, she tells me and I wince. I feel awkward that she would accept this as being the norm, and privately resolve that if Banti works for us, the daughter will see much more of her mum. This is something that is so common here. Mothers go out to work with their husbands from the villages etc and leave their children behind to be taken care of by the extended family or grandparents. Our neighbour’s driver lives close by but his daughter lives with his wife’s parents. He and his wife rarely see her and the daughter apparently views the grandparents as her parents. They send money home to help look after her and are happy she is cared for. Yet, at times, I feel a sadness there when he talks about her.

Banti currently lives in Sidoaerjo, a good 75 minutes away. We agree that I will pay for her room and food costs (plus salary) in exchange for Banti moving close by. She asked if she could start Monday (tomorrow) and then heads off to find a boarding house behind our housing complex.

Let’s see what happens, she seemed keen but won’t know until tomorrow.

Will she turn up?


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