Thursday, May 12, 2005

Jakarta Nights

Wednesday 5/11/2005 2300 Jakarta Time (+ 11 hours from Michigan)

Arrival in Jakarta today at 6 PM. Jakarta has a beautiful airport. It’s like dozens of ornate wooden huts strung together. I exited the airport and entered a clove cigarette smoke filled haze of chaos. Wow, clove cigarettes. In high school we would drive to Grand Haven, about 20 minutes away from home, just to get Djarums. For us they were exotic rebellion. We would sneak into the garage, take out one to share (they were too expensive for each to have their own) and light them. They crackled when you lit them, the taste on the filter sweet on the lips. The clove smell would fill our lungs with its acrid smoke. Déjà vu!

I grabbed a cab to the hotel. Ricardo, my supervisor, had told me that it would cost about 100,000 Rupiah… my gosh, that’s A LOT of money, I thought… actually, it’s not, it’s about ten dollars. Indonesia went through a financial crisis in the late 1990’s where their Rupiah essentially tanked… they are now slowly emerging from this crisis.

Jakarta is smells and sounds. Loud and bossy, chaotic and frenetic. Driving on the left-side has thrown me for a loop. From previous experience, it’s not the driving that’s dangerous… it’s the crossing of the street. In America we usually look left then right… here you MUST look right then left.

I arrived at the Park Lane hotel. It’s on the outskirts of Jakarta, an impressive 20 story hotel with all modern amenities. My room has a great view of Jakarta and the pool 14 floors below. I called Ricardo, who was having a late dinner in the restaurant. I went down and met him. He’s a gregarious Argentine with a strong accent and a great sense of humor. He was with our financial delegate, Barbara, who got in country two days before me. It was seafood night. All you can eat! How am I going to lose weight with all you can eat prawns and sushi?!? We talked for an hour, getting to know each other. You know how you just get good vibes with people? I felt that with both of them. I’m looking forward to working with them.

Well, it's off to bed now.

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