Adventures in Jakarta
on Solo Diaries (Indonesia), 01/May/2009 09:24, 34 days ago
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st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }The Indonesian government recently introduced a new law proclaiming that all foreigners in the country must register themselves with the federal government inJakarta.This means each foreigner is obliged to actually travel toJakartato have his photo and fingerprints taken within 90 days of arriving in the country.There was no way around this law, despite that fact that I, like all VSO volunteers, have already registered with more authorities than I can count and have had more fingerprints taken than Martha Stewart.VSO viciously opposed this new law as the expense to send 45 volunteers toJakartafor a 3 minute procedure is outrageous.No matter– it fell on deaf ears and we are all obliged to go.For the record, government policies such as this are causing countless smaller and less well-funded NGO’s to close up shop and leaveIndonesiaforever; they simply can’t afford to operate any longer.It’s a very sad state of affairs.My day to go came this week.VSO has engaged globally on an effort to become more‘green’ and this means we are trying to minimize air travel.This is exceedingly difficult in a nation that is an archipelago of 17,000 islands!Word came down that anyone stationed on theislandofJava(whereJakartais located) would take the train rather than fly.Lucky me– I now had to take a 9-hour train ride, spend 5 minutes in an immigration office, and then take a 9-hour train ride back.Really it didn’t matter to me as I had a good book and thought it would be an interesting way to see more of the countryside of this beautiful island.Incidentally theislandofJavais roughly the same size asVancouver Islandbut has a population of 120 million people!Luckily I had another volunteer, Denis, with whom to travel.Denis is also placed at Interaksi and has been there for nearly 2 years.His command of Bahasa Indonesia is very strong and he even looks like a local (he’s Filipino).His knowledge of local customs and protocol is excellent so he comes in very handy.I was about to find out how handy as on the train ride toJakartaI came down with a very nasty illness.It started with me just being cold, which was understandable because the air conditioning on the train was set at‘meat locker.’I realized soon that the shivers were coming from inside me and were just a little too intense.Still I assumed that once I got back into the humid late afternoon air inJakartaall would be well.I was wrong and I just got progressively worse, dizzy, disoriented, weak, head pounding, chills that would not quit, despite the fever that I estimated at about 104 degrees.I remembered killing a mosquito in my room a few nights earlier and knowing that he had got to me first as there was a significant amount of blood when I squashed him– my blood.Of course I had thoughts of malaria or worse, Dengue fever, running through my head at this point.Denis and I checked into the hotel (the appointment at immigration was set for 9am the following morning) and I just crashed into the bed, fully clothed, unable to get warm.Denis took such good care of me; he went to get me some noodles and paracetamol (the asian equivalent of‘chicken soup’ and advil) and insisted repeatedly that I needed to eat something.Unfortunately I couldn’t.He checked my temperature constantly and knew what to look for.I drifted in and out of sleep, waking up each time with a start as if I’d been slapped.Sometimes I was freezing cold, sometimes boiling hot (incidentally one of the symptoms of Dengue is frequent fluctuation between hot and cold).Sometime during the night the trips to the bathroom started and things just got worse from there.We made it to immigration the next morning on time and I even managed to smile a few times.Somehow Denis had informed the agent before hand that I was sick and everyone asked how I was feeling.We were out of there in 5 minutes and just went back to the hotel.I had to request a late checkout as there was no way I could wander the streets ofJakartauntil 8pm that night (our train home) without keeling over.I had been looking so forward to seeingJakartaas it was the biggest city I had ever been in, population estimated at around 17 million and thought it would be so interesting.The one interesting thing I saw was a commuter train on a raised platform, maybe 100 feet above the streets absolutely covered in people– hundreds of them hanging out the doors, on the roof, everywhere, all looking casually relaxed and apparently thumbing their noses at the fact that this is an earthquake zone and one shake and they were all done.At 6pm, after many more hours of fitful sleep, we checked out and headed for the train station where I discovered that there are apparently sadists employed by the city’s public works department.The‘benches’ that you must wait on while waiting for your train are nothing more than a series of metal tubes, some parallel to the floor, some perpendicular, that are placed just far enough apart that there is significant weight at each tiny point where your body meets the metal, and just close enough together that there is no way to let any of your natural curves fit.I decided to lay down lengthwise on one of these, which was quite a spectacle.I close my eyes and tried to drown out the yelling coming from the overhead PA system (Indonesians couldn’t talk quietly if they tried and there is only one volume level – maximum).I heard Denis say the word“sakit” (sick) on many occasions, assuming that he was explaining to people why the lazy gule (pronounced goo-lay – it means ‘paleface’ and it is how I am often referred to here when people don’t think I can hear) was taking up 2 spots.The train finally came and mercifully I managed to sleep most of the way home.My fever had broken and I was feeling a tiny bit better (perhaps the 3 immodium I took before leaving the hotel?).Denis and I decided together that I probably don’t have Dengue or Malaria as neither of those illnesses was likely to recede so quickly and it was likely something bacterial, perhaps something I had eaten.So I decided not to go to the doctor but rather just go home to take one of my super-duper Canadian antibiotics and hope for the best.It was later that day when I again woke up in a haze that I realized my wallet was missing. I panicked as I was sure I had it in my bag on the train, but I had slept most of the way -- anyone could have unzipped the front pocket and removed my wallet without being noticed; it would have been so easy. I found out later however that it was right where I left it, on the side table in the hotel room in Jakarta. In my delirium I hadn't even noticed I had left it, despite the fact my glasses had been resting on top of it and they were now firmly on my head. The hotel would graciously send it to me, after taking out enough money to pay for the courier, and after asking me how much I would like to 'tip' them for keeping my wallet safe. We settled on an amount and it should be arriving today. Given the powerful hold Murphy's Law has had on me over the last 72 hours, I'm officially holding my breath until it's in my hands.