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Thursday, September 24, 2015

The 11 months on

 It's been a few weeks since we've visited and we're getting closer to the projected handover date so we thought we'd head over and have a look at the state of play with the new house.

We're not planning to move in until February 2016 so it'll give us time to get the decorations right, finish the kitchen fittings and make sure that when we do finally move in, everything's ready.

We've been giving some serious thought to the kitchen in particular and it's quite nice having a blank canvas to work with. It's also daunting in as much as we don't want to screw it up.

Currently we want something a bit like this......

 As for the rest of the house, well doors are just about all on, walls are starting to be undercoated and generic floor tiles are being laid (we may yet change some of the floor tiles, still thinking)

Here are some pics to give you an idea...

The last of the bamboo scaffolding about to come down

currently this area is going to be for a bbq but in time it will potentially be a room for a live in maid which many Indonesians choose to have 

We're planning a false bookcase to go in front of this door to the bbq area, a bit like this kind of thing .....


I think October is optimistic for completion!!

...but they are starting to lay tarmac

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A little bit of physics and a lot of luck

Have you ever fallen over? By accident I mean, not drunk? Depending on where and how, you know, raised paving stone, or misjudging distance for instance, it usually hurts like hell and bruises both body and, depending on whether you have an audience or not, ego equally.

Lets take it to the next level. Fallen off of something? Like a bicycle? Skateboard? Rollerskates? escalator? Grazed knees and hands are a minimum and I guess egos are again only bruised depending on the level of showoffiness.

Next step up, what about bumping into someone? Not in the metaphorical sense, I mean actually crashing body parts into body parts, and not in a bedroom sense either. It could be two people bending over to pick the same thing up and banging heads, or maybe concentrating too much on that Tinder profile while walking that you don't see the person coming in the other direction. Hurts.

At the centre of all of these events you will find physics and the numerous laws and principles that define the nature and properties of matter and energy such as Newton's First Law of Motion where A body continues in its state of constant velocity (which may be zero) unless it is acted upon by an external force. Thank you Big Bang Theory.

Now science was never my strong point so don't beat me up if, for instance, thermodynamics are also involved in any of those situations I described, it's just a device to bring me to the main part of this blog post. I was knocked off my motorbike on my way home from work two nights ago.

I've been carried from rugby fields, been struck by cricket balls and dislocated my shoulder trying to accomplish an eskimo roll in a kayak. I've crashed cars, fallen off bicycles, bruised my spine in a speedboat, been down to my last seconds of air while scuba diving and broke my big toe kicking a punching bag while learning Ju-Jitsu. But I've never been involved in a motorbike accident before.

I'm not sure that I overthink things but I definitely do think about things. When I decided to start riding a motorbike I was living in Chiang Mai in early 2009. It was a popular way to travel in a city with plenty of traffic, but organised road systems, and the decision to take the automatic moped rather than the Honda Phantom was decided as much by inexperience and price-per-day as it was by wanting to ride a mini Harley. I seriously wanted to ride the Phantom, I just didn't know how. Technically I didn't know how to ride the moped either but since it was fully automatic the worst thing I could do was over-rev the throttle.

which one would you choose?

A lot of my school mates (when I was a kid, not now I'm a teacher) rode 50cc motorbikes, I passed that by and went straight to driving cars. So with over 20 years of car driving experience, riding my first bike was fun but guided by common sense and an awareness that the protective cage around me had now disappeared. I also have a clear understanding of The Highway Code.

On arriving in Indonesia I was back on a bike inside a year but the conditions were remarkably different. I was still riding a fully automatic moped but the conditions of the roads; potholes, increased traffic, lack of signs, made riding a different challenge. South East Asia, with the possible exception of Korea (, also has a notable lack of Highway Codes. This means that rules of the road are more arbitrarily interpreted, by both drivers and authorities alike.

That video was of a toll road which doesn't allow the use of motorbikes, except in times of flooding... in some areas... maybe.

For a better idea of motorbikes, here's a video from Surabaya...

What was interesting in the second video is that most people are wearing helmets and not using mobile phones, this isn't necessarily the case in Tangerang and Jakarta.

These videos highlight that a person's understanding of road etiquette is only useful if the other users have the same respect. Where there is a lack of understanding, there is a driving test, where there is a flouting or disregard of the rules, there is the police and courts. So what happens if you find yourself in a country that has neither?

Of course I'm being argumentative. Indonesia does have a driving test but it is not essential to being able to drive. The driving licence may be purchased, illegally, and speaking to friends it would appear that a significant number of people go through this route. An equal proportion of people don't even bother to get an illegal driving licence, they just hope not to be stopped.

So what happens if you do get stopped by the police? Well in that case you just hand them the vehicle documentation and a folded up bank note and hope to talk your way out of anything. The highly unlikely worst case scenario is that if the policeman doesn't take the cash then it will mean a trip to the courthouse in the area in which you were stopped to pay an elevated fine.

Let me be clear, this is not some indignant tirade against the country in which I have lived for 6 years, rather it is an explanation of how things work. I now ride a Honda CBR 250cc motorbike, equipped with anti-lock brakes that I paid extra for and of all of the things that I have mentioned, the single biggest thing that I have taken into account before riding a bike and while riding a bike, is other drivers and what they might do. Indonesians are not bad people, they are a product of conditioning as we all are and where road use is concerned this area is not good.

Have you ever had that feeling, when sometimes you just know that something is going to hit you, or at the very least may hit you. Sometimes you just know you're going to be in trouble. That didn't happen to me. I approached a roundabout fully expecting that someone in the right hand lane may, instead of going all the way around to the last exit, may indeed head straight on, I was also aware that it was equally possible for a person in that right hand lane to pull off the stupidest of moves and turn left across the inside lane. I was in the inside lane, had slowed to take these things into account and then BANG! I'm lying on the road with a truck still seemingly trying to continue forward over my prone body, the only thing stopping this being the frame of my bike.

This truck had done just that, moved from the inside right to turn left at the roundabout. So even with all of my preparedness I still got hit. That I escaped with a swollen elbow and superficial cuts and bruises was down to the lack of speed on the part of myself and the truck.

Furthermore, the indicators on the truck weren't working, the truck driver had no STNK (vehicle documents) only a police slip proving the confiscation of those documents for the truck being pulled over earlier for another offense. In a slight case of irony, trucks are not even supposed to be on this particular road.

What would happen in the UK in this instance is that police would be called to the scene, drivers would exchange insurance documents, and injured parties would be taken, if necessary by ambulance, to a hospital.

What happened in my case was that I was assisted from my position by approximately 20 people, including local security guards, who seemed to appear out of nowhere. As I was able to stand and speak, and fortunately being only 2 minutes from home, I called Uchiel, my wife, to come and help out with language difficulties. The outcome was that the four guys in the cab admitted liability and agreed to attend a local garage to review the damage and agree on the amount to be paid. Insurance isn't mandatory in Indonesia, which means that most don't have it so "negotiations" are carried out privately. (

The following day, the driver and his mate appeared at our house on return from the repairs garage and, having pleaded poverty, agreed to pay half of the total repair cost which they transferred electronically into our account there and then.

This post should serve as both information and a warning for what to expect in this situation. Had I not had the benefit of someone I knew at the scene, it would have been branded my fault just through me being a foreigner. Had I been more badly injured, who knows what would have happened. What I do know is that had the police been involved it would have cost us money too and we probably wouldn't have received any money toward the cost of the repair.

I choose to ride a bike. I enjoy it, it's easier to get from A-B in heavy traffic and I am aware of the pitfalls. Will I stop riding a bike? No. Will I be more careful? Well certainly at roundabouts, but I don't think that I'm a careless rider or I'd have had more problems in 6 years.

So in the words of the Hill Street Blues desk sergeant, "Let's be careful out there"

thanks to the original owners of the pictures and videos used here.