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Report 6 - 9 December 2007 - The move to Jakarta
A lot of things have happened since my last report, hence the delay in
updating this page. I had hoped to post a more detailed description of
life in Male but events overtook us and so I will include a few notes on
that subject here together with the news of our big move to Jakarta.
[This may also have to double as our annual Christmas letter just in
case I don't have time to write a separate one.]
At the moment I am in Jakarta having started work here at the
beginning of November. Viv is on her way from Australia to join me
having stayed to support Samantha while she was studying for and
sitting her crucial fifth year medicine exams at James Cook University
in Townsville. The official results are not out yet but she has been
notified unofficially that she has passed and so she will start her final
year in January.
Kimberly is also in Townsville where she has started working for an
architectural company as an general building construction/interior
designer. It is a small company that is short of staff and so she is
getting opportunities way beyond her experience. She hopes to work
there for another year or two before moving on and up.
The girls will be spending time with us in Jakarta this Christmas.
Samantha is travelling with Viv and Kim will fly out on 24 December.
They will fly back together on 9 Jan. At the time of writing their
boyfriends are also planning to travel out with Kimberly. It should be
an interesting reunion. No doubt Viv and I will find out about parts of
Jakarta that would otherwise pass us by!
Leaving the Maldives
But where to begin with our travel update? The move to Male was still
a recent event when I wrote our last report back in May. Life in the
Maldives capital was light years ahead of the 'tranquility' of
Ungoofaru but even with my 'small island' upbringing I too found it a
bit stifling. That was caused by a combination of things but mainly
because Male is like an inner city with no suburbs. Even on my small
island we have plenty of quiet countryside to 'get out' to now and again
when we need a change of scenery. But then, our population is about
1,500 while the population of Male is about 100,000 in less than half
the area.
Also it is a tropical island location with no natural beaches. There is
one 'artificial beach' but it isn't like the real thing and it was rarely
used by expats.
Another reason is that we have become so used to socialising round
pubs and hotel bars that the lack of these in Male is a real dampener on
social activities. We obtained a liquor licence but the inconvenient
procedure and lack of social lifestyle made it hardly worth the effort
to collect our monthly allowance. I used mine almost exclusively for my
turn as Hash Hare!
Also expat social functions are often a bit strange and 'eccentric' to
locals, though usually tolerated, but this was difficult in Male with
it's strict Moslem lifestyle and lack of privacy for functions.
exodus of expats to the nearer, cheaper resort islands at weekends.
But these were not conducive to spontaneous, last minute decisions and
were mostly relatively expensive and time-consuming operations.
But, as I stated in an earlier report, the absence of serious crime was
a huge plus (apart from the daily harassment to Viv by old men during
her daily walks) and by the time I left in October I had just about
eliminated my habit of regularly looking over my shoulder, that I had
developed after living for years in PNG!
But, with such outlets as the Maldives Hash House Harriers every
Tuesday evening, our life in Male would have been tolerable until the
end of my project had it not been for a better offer, relatively out of
the blue, for my current job in Jakarta.
I had hoped to finish my career with my previous employer, Cardno, but
I couldn't foresee any significant improvement in my situation with
them so, when the offer came, I decided to trade in the relative
security that they offered for a gamble on the changeover. After all, if
I couldn't take a chance at this stage in my 'career' then when could I?
I was extremely pleased that everyone in Cardno was very
understanding when I announced my resignation and expressed the hope
that I would 'return to the fold' in the not too distant future, which
meant a great deal to me.
The new job and Jakarta
My new job has similarities to several of my previous undertakings but
this time I am contracted privately by the German consultant Dorsch,
through their Asian office in Bangkok, to act as an monitor/adviser to
the Government agency in charge of several ADB-funded road
rehabilitation projects throughout Sumatra and Kalimantan.
I am based in Jakarta but I will be travelling to each of the sites
every few weeks. I am currently living in a friends apartment in the
middle of town but Viv will be arriving in a few days and then we will
start to look around for our own place.
I originally stayed in a house on the outskirts of Jakarta and got an
early taste of the famous Jakarta 'macet' (pronounced 'machet') or
traffic jam. The straight line distance to my office was about 9 km and
the shortest road distance about 12 km. Our regular route was about
15 km and it took between 1.5 and 2.5 hours to drive. Fortunately I
have a car and driver assigned to me so I don't have to endure the local
driving practices myself. I don't think that would be conducive to a
happy start to the project.
Overall my first impressions of Jakarta and the people are very
favourable and I only wish I could have worked in Indonesia earlier
rather than spending so long in PNG. But time will tell whether there
are any surprises in store for us. I think Viv will feel much more at
home here than in the Maldives as there are many aspects of life here
that resemble life in Jamaica.
But more of that anon. Hopefully, it won't be so long until my next
update as I don't expect to have the opportunity to leave the country
again for several months.
There is a licensed transit hotel on the airport island, Hulemale, which
has it's own free ferry service from Male and this was regularly
frequented by expats on Thursday nights and there was also a regular