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Happy New Year

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Happy New Year 2012

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Shaken, not Stirred

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There is this twilight zone that exists just before you fall into a deep sleep. It is that time where you are aware of emerging dreams, yet, noises and events happening in the vicinity of your resting body are registered as well, and become part of the dreams that are in their startup phase.

It was the 8th of august, and it was almost certain that Bapak Fauzi Bowo was going to be announced as the winner of the governor election that where held that day in Jakarta. Jakarta’s government had announced the voting day as a “national holiday” for Jakarta, so most of the employees did not pollute the streets with their cars and motorcycles. I, as an expat, was not allowed to vote, and had to go to the office to earn the company some money. Travel times, however, where reduced to half compared to normal working days.

It looked to become a night as any other night. I went to bed at around ten, setting my alarm clock at 6:15, soon entering the drowsy state of almost sleeping.

I lost all track of time, but I remember hearing a lot of people talking and laughing in the corridors some time later. I was kept in the drowsy state for a long time by these voices, but I was too lazy to really wake up, but not sleepy enough to ignore it. The voices stopped at some point, I think, or I must have fallen asleep, but the next thing I remember is that I am dreaming that my body is shaking all over. I semi woke up, but the shaking still continued. I was wondering why, because I did not drink alcohol the night before; I could not explain it. I was starting to get worried in my dreamy state (at the time I was not sure if it was dreaming or waking). Suddenly, a hard rain started pounding the window, and it was as if winds where sweeping hailstones against it. It connected with something I heard earlier that night (in my dream?), namely the sound of a thundering roar, right before the voices started. As I was thinking about the thunder and rain, a hard noise of a falling object in my room dragged me completely out of my sleep. I was fully awake now and jumped out of bed.  Still the rain or poured out of the sky and the sudden jumping out of my bed left me on shaky legs in the room. I got a little disoriented and while looking for the light switch, I got an eerie feeling that the rain I was hearing, did not come from the window, but was actually emerging from the hollow walls that separate the inner rooms. As I stumbled in the kitchen, the shaky feeling got out of my legs. In the kitchen I could hear the rain falling on the ceiling from above.  I was sure that I was still dreaming, or maybe sleep walking? Than it hit me, I knew what I was experiencing. This was the work of an earthquake. The rain I had been hearing was dust that flowed down the hollow walls and ceiling.

The reason why I did not immediately connect what I was feeling to an earthquake is that experience can be a bad teacher. I experienced two earthquakes in Belgium (yes, we get them there once in every 20 years or so), but those always came with a lot of slow shaking movements, that would make doors and walls rattle like hell. This one was very quiet, except for the rustling sound of the sliding dust and sand.

Immediately after I woke up, the corridor filled up with people hurrying to the lifts or emergency staircases to get out of the building (yes, lifts, the one thing you should avoid using during quakes and fire). I, however, stayed in the apartment I opened the Internet and learned that the quake was at a place about 95 km from my apartment, somewhere very deep in the see; no reason to panic. As I looked out f the window, I could see people swarming out of all entries of the apartment, and trying to get as far as possible from the building. Most of them stayed there for more than an hour before daring to set foot inside again. I am sure some of them slept outside or in their car for the rest of the night.

I could not find any object that had tumbled, not in my bedroom, or in the rest of my apartment: everything was still as I left it before I went to bed. Probably it was something in the corridor or in the apartment above mine that had been knocked over by panicking people trying to flee their home.

I went back to bed and fell asleep soon; but it was a light sleep and I woke up several times, feeling my body shaking, or was that a dream (no significant after chocks where registered that night)?

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Yet another Taxi Incident

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Some taxi drivers in Jakarta are just plain stupid. However, the one I had last week, topped all I have encountered so far. One or two “so called mistakes” are, in my eyes, acceptable, but even after I show I understand and can talk (taxi) Indonesian, and after I clearly explained where to go and how to get there, demonstrating I know the route exactly, this guy kept on trying and trying to rip me off. The story is as follows:

It was about seven in the morning. I had to go to Plaza Aminta in Cilandak, (very) South-Jakarta. I asked the receptionist to call a green taxi from the pool at our apartment and promptly a taxi arrived at the lobby entrance. I got in, and after exchanging the usual good mornings the driver asked me where I wanted to go. When I told him: “Plaza Aminta”, I am used to the puzzled looks, so I immediately added: “TB Simatupang”. Most of the taxi drivers can deduct from that information that they have to go south. Not this one. He kept on looking at me in a puzzled way. I knew exactly how to go there, so I told him that is near Pondok Indah Mall and that we had to pass that mall to get there. At least this triggered some kind of recognition and the taxi started moving.

When we arrive at the exit of the apartment complex, he asked if I want to go left or right. This was a plausible question, since we can go both ways to go south. I told him to go right (to normal Jakarta and Indonesian standards, going right often means going left and make a u-turn at some point). I saw his puzzled looks showing again, so I explained via which route I wanted to reach my destination: first to Semanggi, take Sudirman to Senayan, than pass Blok M Plaza and from there via Radio Dalam to Pondok Indah. It was easy, I thought. The was guy is so puzzled by my explanation that he did not see that the car in front of him stopped so it was unavoidable that he hit it (speeds where under 30 km per hour, traffic tends to get kinda slow at that time-well traffic can get slow at any time, anywhere in Jakarta). The woman in the hit car drove on and I noticed there was no damage to her car. The taxi driver however insisted to get her on the site, to assess the damage. After some horn blowing and light signaling, the car finally pulled over at a quiet spot. The driver got out of the taxi to look at the (none existing) damage (the meter is still running). After a minute or so, he got in the taxi again and started driving.

Again he asked my instructions. I again explained the route, but he still seemed to be oblivious of where to go and how to get there. I suspected he was just trying to trick me, so told him bluntly to go to Sudirman first, via Semanggi. “OK, mister” he said in a jolly way. At least he knew Sudirman and Semanggi.

Arriving at Semanggi, he suddenly took a left turn, and before I realized it, he was on his way to Sudirman, yes, but up north. I told him this was the wrong way. I knew he could still take a left turn later to get back to the road we where before. But he was (deliberately?) stalling by telling me: “this is Sudirman, you told me to go to Sudirman!”. I got a little angry with him and said we were supposed to go to South-Jakarta, pass Blok M, and we were going north. Of course we already passed the opportunity to go left and minimize the damage. The taxi driver said he was sorry and he would make a u-turn as soon as possible. I knew that a few kilometers up north was a place where we could go of Sudirman and pass under it to go back on Sudirman at the other side. But the taxi driver didn’t think that was as soon as possible enough, so when we passed the point where we could turn back, I asked him quiet rudely where he was going to make the u-turn. He said he was going to do it at Bundaran HI, about another kilometer up north. I told him he was not fit to be a taxi driver, because he missed the point where we could turn back, and he didn’t know how to go to South-Jakarta all together. I also asked him to drop me at Plaza Indonesia where I would take a decent taxi. He dropped me in front of Plaza Indonesia. I paid the fair (33000 Rp sharp) and no tip, and all the time he kept on saying he was sorry.

Well, I am not sure he was sorry, but this time I made a complaint about him at his head office and they told me he was going to get a warning. I don’t know if that will happen though. After this incident, I always order the blue taxis from the well know group with the bird. At least, their drivers stop trying to trick you after they know you know your way around in Jakarta.

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Kampung Bule

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I heard about Jakarta’s Jalan Jaksa as being referred to as ‘kampung bule’ before. If you know this street, it is obvious why: it is pre-eminently a western backpacker’s hangout.
On a Belgian gathering in the Eastern Promise last Saturday, the term was used for another place: an area where (nearly) all inhabitants are western. So when I asked a guy where he lived, his girlfriend replied: “in kampung bule, south Kemang.” I had to think twice before I knew what she meant.

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