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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Smiling in the face of adversity......not always easy

Writing this blog is cathartic, in the sense that once you get stuff "off your chest" (idiom) and "out in the open" (further idiom), it can allow you to open your mind to what's really worth focusing on.

As a Director of Studies, your day is filled with challenges both small and at times seemingly mountainous. Today was the challenge of resolving the ongoing situation of getting my motorbike, or 'Everest' to follow the idiom.

As I have mentioned in a previous entry, six months ago I put my faith in a Dutch-Indonesian guy called Mike. This faith was (mis)placed based on my casual friendship with Mike and his girlfriend Lyn. As you may imagine from the title of this entry, all did not go well and 6 months later I'm still without said motorbike as well as the two million rupiah down payment.

Now I know you're going to say that I probably deserve it. But should living, and aspiring to continue living, in a different country, stop you from making friends and then taking those friends at face value when they offer to help? Well hindsight is one of those gifts that I may have been at the back of the queue for when handed out but I believe that you have to trust people a little. Relatively, two million rupiah equates to about 140.00 pounds so it isn't going to break the bank but obviously there's still the principle of getting it back.

So, what to do next. Well, the idea of spreading the payments over a year seemed sensible. Having only a few months back forked out 30 million to sort out my house and knowing that my parents are also coming to stay for a month in August and still needing some bits for the house before they arrived, the thought of a down payment and then spreading the cost, where I wouldn't really notice the monthly amount appealed even more. Enlisting the help of the Marketing Co-ordinator Yosef and Nina the Centre Manager to leapfrog the hurdle of intensive Bahasa Indonesian language, it transpired that I could indeed accomplish all of this in my own name.

A representative from the Dealership came and completed the forms and took away my inflated deposit of Rp3.75 million with promises that following a successful examination by the leasing chap (a guy comes round and looks at your house to make sure you live there, I kid you not), said bike would be delivered tomorrow 21st July. The following day came the next adversity, the down payment had just risen to 30% of the bike's cost but this would be reflected in the monthly payments and by doing this it was 100% guaranteed the bike would be delivered on the 21st July. So off I trotted to the bank to withdraw more cash.

The house inspector guy came out the same day and left saying that all he needed now were copies of my last three months bank statements. This morning I deviated from my normal route to work to collect the statements from my local branch of Permata (who I've banked with for two and a half years). Dropping them with Yosef at work I was then asked if I had a "Family Card" like other Indonesians. Yep, here comes the next bit of adversity. All of those previous promises were based on being able to produce an identity card which as a Brit we don't possess. But, don't worry Mr Daron/Mr John (this is the problem of including your middle name on anything here, it baffles people as to what to call you) said the guys from the dealership, we can get a letter from the guy who is the unelected head of the area you live in, that you've never met, who wouldn't know you from Adam, to confirm I do indeed live at the address I've actually been living at for the last 6 months............and it will only cost me a further Rp500,000 and a wait of up to a further two weeks.

The complete surprise and amazement of everyone in the room that I didn't leap from my chair and enthusiastically shake everyone's hands for their lopsided attempt at extortion was obvious by the slack-jawed expressions.

The speed with which I suggested that the best thing to do was to return my money took the two dealership guys (I guess there were now two of them if backhanders were being handed out) by surprise and they seemed completely confused as they exited the office without any acknowledgement to their departure.

The upshot? Back to square two. Not square 1 as I'm still awaiting the return of the original 2 million deposit..... You never know.

And finally back to the title of this entry. How do you smile in the face of this adversity? Well, it's Indonesia and you don't sweat the small stuff and realistically, this is small stuff. Something will work out, it always does. You just need to find the particular method to make it happen!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the launderette......

Proof that nothing in Indonesia should be taken at face value was confirmed recently by this particular incident.
A live in maid is not exactly compulsory here but it is extremely normal. Paid the equivalent of about 70 pounds a month, the maid usually has a room in the house and her (although sometimes it's a his) duties entail cleaning and laundry with a possibility of shopping thrown in too.
We have two teachers houses here in Gading Serpong and up until recently we had a young maid based in the main house. She cleaned the two teachers houses on a day to day basis and also did the laundry. I attached myself to this rota by having her visit my house once a week to clean and took my laundry to the main house to have it done.
2 weeks ago, the maid left.
Now, I live on my own and my house is easy enough to clean, but laundry and ironing I have always considered to be time I'll never get back and that there are more worthwhile things I can do with that time. So, it was with this particular philosophy that I looked around for someone to do it.
As luck would have it, there was a sign saying "laundry" outside a house two doors away from my house.
I ventured into the driveway one day to enquire and was met by a sweet old Indonesian lady. Using my limited Bahasa Indonesian, I asked if she could do my laundry for me to which I was met with the reply of "EH-EH"
This wasn't the response I was expecting so proceeded to re-request my laundry needs. The woman appeared to understand but yet again said "EH-EH" this time followed buy a further sucession of "EH-EH"'.
It was at this point I realised that the poor old dear had some sort of speech impediment or some such disability, but her frantic nodding made me return to my house to collect the stack of clothes that had built up. I left her my name and address and my phone number and left to a cheerful chorus of "EH-EH"s.
3 days later I went back to check on the status of the laundry and was met by a middle aged woman called Veronica who, it turned out, was the sister of the lady I'd first met.
Veronica looked worried, never a good sign and especially when your worldly clothes posessions are at stake.
Very calmly, Veronica apologised for her sisters enthusiasm at being able to do my laundry and immediately I wondered why. There was a perfectly good sign saying "Laundry" outside the house and EH-EH, as she will always affectionately be known to me as had completed a very formal printed out laundry request form.
The next part didn't take me quite by surprise as it would have done when I was newly arrived in Indonesia. Veronica explained that their laundry was an agency for dry cleaning and that all the clothes are sent away to be dry cleaned at a cost of RP5,000 per item. I was now looking at a bill of over RP200,000 for what should have cost less than RP50,000...................and then she handed me back my laundry bag containing my dirty underwear and tea towels.
On the plus side, Veronica did direct me to a place called "Nina's" in the next street where the sign saying "Laundry" evidently meant they could do day to day laundry.

The moral? It always pays to ask...............

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Indonesian Public Holidays 2012

These are the public holidays in Indonesia next year....i think that makes 19 plus i'll get about 9 extra at Christmas next year ...UK, eat your heart out

January 1 (Sunday): New Year
January 23 (Monday): Chinese New Year
February 5 (Sunday): Prophet Muhammad’s birthday
March 23 (Friday): Nyepi, the Hindu Day of Silence
April 6 (Friday): Good FridayMay 6 (Sunday): Waisak
May 17 (Thursday): Jesus Christ’s Ascension Day
June 17 (Sunday): Muhammad’s Ascension Day (Isra Mi’raj)
August 17 (Friday): Independence Day
August 19-20 (Sunday-Monday): Idul Fitri
October 26 (Friday): Idul Adha, the Islamic Day of Sacrifice
November 5 (Monday): Islamic New Year
December 25 (Tuesday): Christmas
Additional Days Off (Cuti Bersama):
May 18 (Friday): Ascension Day
August 21-22 (Tuesday-Wednesday): Idul Fitri
November 16 (Friday): Islamic New Year
December 24 (Monday): Christmas