Monday, August 18, 2003

Greetings from Jakarta!

Well, it was a pretty mad caper, but I managed to get here! It all started back in maninjau......

I left my beatiful lakeside retreat a day early just to be absolutely sure i could make it to the airport in padang in time. The reason it was so important I make this flight, as I may have mentioned, was that my mum and sister were flying in to jakarta from england, and i had booked a flight from padang (west sumatra) to jakarta on the same day so as to meet them at the airport. My flight was scheduled to arrive in jakarta at 13:50, and theirs at 20:45, so there was plenty of time. Anyway, I set off in a "travel bus" to spend a night in Padang. Travel buses come in a few different varietys, normally involving brightly coloured stickers and happy hardcore. This one was a stickerless country and western type however, which if anything was a change... anyway, as we set off it was raining. When we arrived it was raining more. As we approached the city of padang, the roads suddenly turned into a ginat waterpark! The main roundabout was a genuine whirlpool due to the cars and the current provided by the overflow of a side road... Now i know what your thinking, your thinking I'm exaggerating and that basically there was just a bit of water on the roads, but let me tell you, we drove through water at least one and a half feet (45cm) deep, causing a proper wake to form around the front of the car! I kept seeing people pushing cars and motorbikes that had stalled, and I prayed that my car's fate wouldn't be the same. At one pint we couldn't get thru the road, so my driver went up onto a riverside footpath! This path was meant for pedestrains, and was on a raised bank along the side of the man made river. The river, which was swollen to the point of almost busrsting it's banks, raced alongside the car. Then another car started coming the other way down the tiny footpath! We somehow managed to pass, and eventually made it to a hotel without stalling.

After checking in i went and waded out into the street to find some food. The rain was still falling, and 2 indonesian guys started talking to me and offered to share their umbrella. i walked with them and tried to ask where i could find a food stall that was still open. One of the guys said he was heading towards one, and the other took a different turn, so i was left with this guy. He was very smiley, about 35 i guess, and he was walking quite close to share his umbrella with me. Then he put his hand on my shoulder and gave it a squeeze, and looked at me, saying something along the lines of "do you want a massage?". "Tidak (no)" I said, and he let go, then he did the same thing again, this time laughing when i put on a serious face and again said "Tidak!". Then he ponted at my crotch, and then put the tip of his finger in my mouth and said "you want?". "TIDAK!" I said!! There was nothing dodgy or confrontational about what he did, he simply offered me a blowjob as if it was the most normal thing in the world to do! "I have a girlfriend!" I said, as if this might somehow justify my refusing his generous offer. He just laughed and tried to massage my shoulder again, but by now i was onto him and sidestepped. He thought the whole situation was extremely funny, and tried one last time to get my hotel room number before i finally turned around, said my goodnight's and headed back the way I had come so he couldn't pretend to be going the same way! These indonesians take hospitality to new levels i tell you!

After a night of being eaten by mosquitos and a morning of playing guitar with the hotel staff, i finally made it to the airport. I was very stressed by this point, as I was imagining that due to the floods my flight might be cancelled or delayed, but when I reached the airport i checked the computer screen, and my flight was still scheduled to leave on time. I checked in and went thru to the waiting area. My flight was due to leave at 12:20. When at 1:00 I was still sat in the waiting room and the monitor was still giving my flight's status as "check in", I started to realise something was up. I went up to the counter and asked what was up. "Oh, the planes broken, we're fixing it at the moment" said the girl. "So when will it be fixed?" I asked. "mmmm, no way of telling really", she said, trying to look apologetic. Or maybe she just shrugged. To be honest her english wasn't exactly up to much. By now lots of other passengers had come up to join in the complaining, and suddenly I was surrounded by people far more intent on making a fuss than I was, and so was pushed to the back of the "que", which wasn'r actually a que, but more an imaginary order in which peple would be dealt with depending on how pushy and obnoxious they were being. By far the most obnoxious was an Italian guy, who, embarressingly, was the only other white guy there. He kept saying really unnececarily annoying things like "Look, it's not my fault the planes broken is it? So who's fault is it? (blank look from girl who clearly has very low position) Yes, that's right, it's YOUR fault, so I want you to book me onto the next flight on any other airline, and I want YOU to pay for it! OK!? Right, get me your boss! I demand to speak to the Boss!!!" and so on and so forth. " what a prick" i thought to myself. Surely there was no need to like that? I mean there's no way they could just buy him another ticket was there, they would just send him to the boss, who would try to placate him and tell him he understood his feeling etc etc....

So anyway, I eventually managed to speak to one of the girls, and i explained to her that i had to meet my mother and sister in jakarta, and could she tell me what time that expected the flight to leave. She told me that that were waiting for a part which was being flown out from jakarta and would arrive at 2:20, then after the plane was fixd we'd probably still leave by 4pm, so i'd still be in jakarta in time. So, satisfied that all was well, i went and played my guitar to a bunch of old men, thinking what a stressful time the italian was probably having arguing with the boss all for sake of saving 1 hour or so. At about 3:30 I went back up to the desk. "So, did the part arrive ok?" I asked. "What part?", said the girl. "You know! The part to fix the plane!" I said, shocked that she could forget something so important! "Oh! Ummmm, No." she said, then smiled at me to make up for any upset this news may have caused. "So when is the plane going to leave?!" I asked, starting to panic. Then, the italian turned up, and asked me how i was getting on. I explained that I wasn't doing so great all things considered, and he said "what, you didn't get moved to another flight?!"... "ummm, no. you can do that?" I asked, feeling like a prize idiot. "Well, yes, but you'd have to do it bloody quick, the flight leaves in 15 minutes!" he said. Suddenly siezed with panic I ran about frantically looking for someone with authority who could help me. Eventually, after about 4 reffereals, I ended up in the Lion Air office, and was told that the Bali Air flight was full, so I couldn't go on it. I finally gave in, and adopted the post colonial "I'm white and rich and you'd better bloody do what i say so help you god!" attitude that had served the italian so well, and within minutes I was checking in to the Bali Air flight! I'd asked the boss what time the Lion Air flight was really expected to leave and he told me 6pm, so i was thanking my lucky stars that the Italian had told to change flights just in time or I would have missed my mum for sure!

I said to the guy sorting my ticket, "But what about my bag! I've already checked it in on your flight!". "Don't worry" he said, "give me your baggage tag and I'll get it put on the new flight". "But it leaves in 15 mins!" I said. "Don't worry!" he said, "It's no problem!". No problem for him the lying bastard! but more about that later.... So anyway, I manage to get on the plane, and as we taxi out into the runway, and I'm busy congratulating myself for acting so fast, i look out my window, and guess what i see? Only all the other fucking delayed passengers getting onto the supposedly broken Lion Air flight!! And in a sudden moment of second sight, I suddenly know that my bag isn't in the hold of the plane I'm currently sitting in. It just wasn't possible. They didn't ask what my bag looked like, and to identify it by the number on the tag alone would take forever, and even if they had identified it (which by now i was praying they hadn't) they wouldn't have had time to put it on this plane, so it was probably sat in the airport somewhere, ownerless and flightless, probably about to be destroyed in a controlled explosion by the bomb-squad. I tried to put this out of my mind and tell myself i was being paranoid, but my logical mind just knew it was right, and as I stood there at the empty baggage claim belt after everyone else had left I'm sure i heard my brain sing a little "told you sooo!". I went and told someone official looking, and they gave me what I assume was supposed to be a sympathetic smile, but came across more as an "aren't you pathetic" smile. I was led down a maze of corridors and dumped from one person to another, one departm,ent to the next, until i was eventually told that they couldn't get thru to lion air, and i should just go there myself. Luckily one friendly guy gave me a lift to the terminal.

As you can imagine, losing your backpack 6 months into a one year trip is not just inconvenient, it's pretty much a nightmare. I mean of course I didn't reaaly NEEED any of that stuff, but well, no, fuck it, I did NEEEEED it!!!!! It's my stuff! I'm attatched to it! Clothes i can replace, toiletries i can replace, but all those chargers for my digital camera, video camera, MD player (what can i say, i lived in singapore for 2 years!) couldn't be replaced so easily! And what about my powerpuff towel??!! Where was I going to find on of them in jakarta?! Ok, so i clutching at straws here, i guess it really was just stuff, but hey, it was MY stuff, and I WanteD it!

By now it was already time to go meet my mum and sis, so after telling the woman from lion air what had happened and recieveing a promise that she's try and find me bag I headed down to the arrivals terminal. They're flight was delayed (a recurring theme of the day) and I headed back upstairs. As i sat and waited, gloomily thinking of how much I was going to miss my berghaus walking boots, I looked up to be greeted by the site of an indonesian guy carrying a huge, ridiculous looking backpack. wait a minute! It was MY backpack! Hoooooray! I could have kissed him! (I didn't).

So in the end, my mum and sis arrived. After their long haul flight from London via Dubai, Columbo, and Singapore, they seemed far less exhausted than me! What a day. The only other highlight of the day was mum's bag being searched for bombs as we entered Jalan Jacksa (tourist street) in a taxi! That was all yesterday. Today is another story......

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