January 1, 2010
So today orientation started. I was told we’d be picked up at 8, so I set my alarm for 6.30 thinking Id give myself some time to get ready. I hadn’t changed my phone time yet though, and on the plane they said the time difference was 3 hrs, so I just set it on my aussie time to get up at 9.30. Turns out the time difference is 4 hrs, so I was up really early waiting around. More people moved into our kos too, we now have about 15 or so. Its gotten to the point of ridiculous and ACICIS are a bit upset about it because it represents a security threat. We’ve still been hanging out with the same group who went around with on Day 1 though, which is about 7 or 8 of us, because it’s a little more inconspicuous than walking around with a tour size group. We walked to Atma Jaya, and on the way one of the universities local volunteers (L.Os) taught us a novel way of crossing the street – we’d be walking a further 5 minutes, then crossing on the overpass, then backtracking – but apparently that’s not how you do it in Jakarta. Debbie (L.O) waited for a tiny gap in traffic (big enough gaps to walk through are few and far between on the main roads) and then walks out with her arms out, bringing the traffic to a screeching halt as we all run across. It was insane.
So we made it to the university, the swarm of bule students, through the backstreets this time, which always represents a different picture than the main drag does. The security guards let us all in (the university here is still on holiday until Monday) and we went upstairs to meet Phil, our resident director and general know-it-all on expat living. He’s quite a character, and was wearing a hideous batik shirt that reminds me of mum’s tablecloth. He ran through the general drill of what to expect, health, security, etc etc, and then we all got up and introduced ourselves. When Feleidh and myself said we were working at Kabar magazine, Phil said ‘oh yes you’re the lucky ones that might get a chance to go to bali, next up!’ and left me confused. I went up and asked him later and he said the editor of Kabar magazine had rung him and asked if the university minded him sending the interns to Bali to cover some stories! The magazine will cover our accommodation, we just have to book our flights. I’m not sure if it’ll actually happen yet but it’s a pretty exciting thought that I could be sent on assignment to other parts of the country.
The first orientation session lasted til about 12 and the second one ran from 1 – 3.30. They were pretty boring but I suppose its all necessary in terms of legal and informative requirements from our home universities. In between we had lunch at Plaza Semanggi (across the road) which was an experience in itself. About 10 of us branched off and went into this Indonesian fast-food-ish looking place. So far I’ve been getting around the language barrier by ordering prettymuch anything that says ‘ayum’ (chicken) and either mie (noodles) or nasi (rice). That method failed me today. I ordered mie something ayum.. and ended up with deep fried chicken feet on a bed of noodles!! No, I didn’t eat them.
Virginia had a bit of a go but didn’t really know what to do with them. Yes, it was a bit funny, but I didn’t end up eating to went hungry until we stopped at BreadTalk (bakery) on the walk home. Virginia, Ali and I decided to walk home by ourselves, which we hadn’t yet tried. It’s a bit difficult to navigate and we went an unnecessarily long way, but found ourselves at the busy road about 10 minutes walk from the overpass. We decided to try the trick we’d learnt this morning and stopped traffic. It was crazy. The people were beeping their horns and flashing lights, but they stopped. Jakarta has no system, especially when it comes to traffic. Logically, nothing here should function, and yet somehow it does. You can’t think about it too much or its enough to drive you insane. There are no lanes on the roads, and so in some places its 3 cars wide, some its 5. There are about 4 times as many scooters as there are cars, but no real motorcycles. It’s a constant state of chaos, attempted merging, short bursts of speed, and then slamming on the breaks. There’s no such thing as a ‘3 second gap’.. you’re lucky if you get a 0.03 second gap.
So we got home, rested up for a bit and then Gini and I decided to crack a bintang in our rooms and watch the TV. The ex-president of Indonesia died on Wednesday so that’s been dominating the news. We watched the bahasa-indonesian channels, trying to understand what they were on about. Ali came down a little later and joined us, and within about half an hr we had 7 people in Gini’s room with bintangs deciding what to do for the night (with the door open of course, otherwise we would be violating kos law and be kicked out!). Debbie (L.O) dropped past unannounced and we all stashed the bintang while she went on and on about some kind of university letter and we just waited for her to leave. Eventually she sat on a puddle of beer on the bedside table and the look on her face was priceless – it was the biggest mingling of disgust and surprise ever, as she smelled her hand and went ‘urghhh!! What IS this??’. The L.Os don’t drink and think that anyone who does is alcoholic basically, because a bottle of bintang is about $2 aus, but that’s a day’s wage for a lot of people who live around here. So eventually Debbie left and we called the others, discovered they were at a restaurant down the street and we went to join them. We had about 25 people crammed in this tiny restaurant for dinner, and as we walked in you could see the dollar signs in the staff’s eyes.
They had never seen so many bule, and all whipped out their camera phones to take photos of us.. which was fine at first but it got a little crazy at the end, when they started wanting to take closeups of us and stuff, so we bailed. We didn’t know where to go, but we’d heard that the hard rock café was going off (having no idea where it actually was), so 6 of us jumped in a cab and headed off. Turns out its near Plaza Indonesia which is near the massive roundabout where everything happens in Jakarta. There were thousands and thousands and thousands of people. We saw one other white man. We met up with another cab full of aussies and found the place. Hard rock tried to charge us 250,000 to get in, which is like $30. I wouldn’t pay that for a cover charge back home so I sure as hell wasn’t paying it to go into a club in Jakarta. The security guards tried to haggle when we said ‘tidak terima kasih’ but we decided we’d take to the streets instead.
The streets were insane, there were people everywhere and fireworks in the skies all around Plaza Indonesia. Crystal had bought fireworks earlier for about $2.50 at Blok M. We thought it would be the perfect place to let them off, despite the fact that there were police and security everywhere. Crystal and Ollie wedged the fireworks into the bush and were about to let them off when a security guard comes running up yelling ‘no! no! no! stop!’, and we all froze thinking we were about to get the fireworks confiscated (at best). Instead he pulls the firework out of the shrubbery and holds it in the air, gesturing towards the sky, saying ‘like this, like this!’. So Crystal lights the firework in the security guards hands, and he stands there as it fired off into the sky 5 or 6 times. It was awesome. Crystal and Ollie did the same thing next and the Indonesians thought it was hilarious, even a group of policemen came to have a photo with the funny white people.
So we stood around as the clock counted down. We only knew it was new years because of our phones. Noone counted down like they do in Sydney, and the fireworks were going insane for easily an hour. There was no organised fireworks spectacle, it was all just locals letting off their own, and there was more fireworks than I have ever seen go off in back home. We wandered around looking for a main road that wasn’t blocked and 7 of us jumped in a cab to go back home. It’s squishy, but oh-so-cheap. We got home around 2am, and before we’d left we made a bargain with the security guard to let us back in because our official curfew is midnight (thats when they lock the gates). When we got home there was about 5 of them who had waited up to let us in. Such an interesting night. I had a big sleep, and now luckily we have today off to rest. Its a public holiday, and its friday, which is prayer day so a lot of shops and businesses are closed, especially after midday.
Gini and a few of the other girls went off to find a fruit market, I’m just relaxing writing this for now and then am going to find out what everyone has planned for the afternoon. We go back to university tomorrow.
Happy new year everyone!