Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Capital City

Mr. Muchsin finally tracked us down again (he stalked us while we were eating lunch) and roped us into coming to another English class last week.  This one was at 7:00, and we brought Swapnil along to take some of the heat.  This time was actually a lot better than last time.  There were a lot more students, maybe 40, and they were a lot more talkative.  We didn't really teach at all, but it's probably good for them to just get comfortable talking with English speakers.  

We went to Jakarta for a few days last week as promised.  The refinery was doing some cleaning up and apparently didn't want UOP all up in their biz, so they told Matt and Swapnil to leave for a few days.  No complaints there.  There are only two flights from Dumai to Jakarta per week, so we had to wait to fly out on Wednesday.  Matt and I stayed in Jakarta and went to the U.S. embassy to get extra visa pages in our passports.  Now, maybe I'm naive, but I always thought that embassies were nice places.  Fresh and modern, like an expensive hotel.  So, we made our appointments, put on all our finery, (I wore a t-shirt with sleeves instead of a tank top, and Matt wore a button down with shorts and sandals) and went.  What a dump!  It was just a big wall with razor wire around it from the outside, and then inside a bunch of random buildings spaced out around a basketball court.  There were hundreds of people there, and thankfully we didn't have to wait outside in line with everyone else (not because we were Americans, and not because we had an appointment, but because we only needed visa pages, and not an actual visa).  Even with our appointments, we waited there for 2 hours.  And man are those people rude!  You'd think they were being forced to work there against their will. I guess it's possible that they were.  But they all spoke English, and most of them spoke Indonesian, too, so it seemed like they made their own choice.  No one was rude to us, but the woman taking fingerprints of the hundreds of people applying for American visas was.  She treated everyone like dirt, including her coworkers.  I wish I knew her name so I could publish it and give her a bad reputation.  It doesn't really matter.  If you go to the embassy, you'll know who I'm talking about.  

Anyway, two hours later, out we went clutching our little passports, now bursting with fresh pages.  We wanted to sightsee, so after 10 minutes of trying to cross the street, we got a guard from the embassy to stop traffic for us, and we went up to Jakarta's most famous monument.  Luckily, we could see it from far away, but when we got close, we realized that, like everything else in the city, it was surrounded by a 10 foot tall fence.  We couldn't find the gate, and it was too hot to mess with it, so we went back to our hotel, which
 is also surrounded by a fence with multiple guarded gates.  Even the shopping malls and business towers are fenced and gated. It may have something to do with the bombings there in 2005, but it seems a little excessive.  Every time we came back to the hotel in a taxi, five or six guards would open all the doors and check that we weren't carrying anything.  Then at the front door, we had to put our stuff through a scanner and walk through a metal detector.  Every time.  It was like flying, except we didn't have to take our shoes off.  Anyway, we didn't enjoy Jakarta too much, for these reasons and others (there are no sidewalks and no public transportation, so you have to take taxis everywhere, and traffic is horrible all the time.  It takes at least 30 minutes to go ten
 miles).  So we tried to book a flight to Yogyakarta, at the cultural heart of Java, but because we wanted to go within 24 hours, we couldn't find any website to give us tickets.  And we didn't know where to go to find a travel agency.  So we were stuck.  We ended up spending most of our time at the hotel.  I stayed by the pool or watched TV and Matt had lots of work to do on his computer.  Pretty exciting.  We did go to one "antique" shopping street, which was fun, but we were the only ones shopping, so people were kind of pushy.  

So that was our Jakarta vacation.  We had to come back Saturday (Matt's choice), and because the only other flight to Dumai was on Sunday, we had to fly into Pekenbaru, which is about 160kms from Dumai.  Pertamina arranged for a driver to pick us up, and we thought the trip would only take about two hours.  It took 5 and a half.  It was the curviest, hilliest, most vomit inducing trip I've ever taken.  No one threw up, but we were all feeling more than a little sick by the time we finally rolled into town.  Needless to say, we won't be doing that again.  If Matt finishes on Sunday and we can't fly to Jakarta from here, we'll probably take the ferry to Melaca, Malaysia, which could be fun in it's own right, I guess.  If the boat doesn't sink.  

So our current plans are this (and keep in mind as soon as I write this Matt's going to call and say they're delayed again): we will leave here either Sunday or Monday, depending on the job. Go to Singapore, via Malaysia or Jakarta, and then fly to Bali either Monday or Tuesday.  We'll stay there for about a week and then hopefully fly back to the U.S. on the 23rd, then maybe to Arkansas on the 24th.  That's our current plan.  We don't know how long we'll stay in Arkansas yet because Matt might get assigned somewhere else for the beginning of January.  Time will tell.  Anyway, can't wait to see everyone!  My plans for the day include walking to lunch and trying an Indonesian specialty: avocado shake.  Sometimes they put chocolate sauce on it.  I'll let you know how it goes.  

I just got back from lunch (they didn't give me an avocado shake... translation error).  After lunch I went for a walk and got stalked.  This guy wasn't stalking me as much as he was just walking next to me... very closely... stopping when I stopped... turning when I turned... for 30 minutes.  Anyway, I'm sure he was just trying to make everyone think I was his girlfriend, or maybe he thought he was escorting me home, but it was really annoying.  Took his picture in case he kidnaps me later.  If I get taken, he's your prime suspect.  More on this as it develops.  

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