The first word I learned in Bahasa Indonesia is “Bule”. That means white person. Your hear Bule in a conversation and know they talk about you. Great. Nothing better than knowing they talk about you without knowing what they say. I am getting used to the attention westerners get in Asia but I still don’t get why white is so sexy. They spend so much money on whitening creams whilst my Dutch friends pay solar studios to get tainted. Indonesians believe that touching a Bule nose brings luck to their children. The caterers hit on us and the other week the security guy gives me back my ID card, smiles, and adds: “Very handsome, Sir!” Isn’t security there to protect us?
The most developed part of Indonesia
I am certain we live in the most developed neighborhood of Jakarta. If one searches Google Images for “Jakarta Skyline” he is likely to see my new home. For real. This area is the business district of the capitol and meant to impress foreign investment. The traffic is so bad though it might, if any, impress Indians only. Living here is not like living in Indonesia and certainly not like living in Dwarka Sector 7, New Delhi, India. It’s mostly caps and malls and of course our pool. As much as I welcome the new comforts it feels too normal and boring and I miss just how extraordinary every day was in India. Now it is difficult again to find the little things that make every day special. But in the end I can tell myself, that as long as there as palms and banana trees it is still pretty cool.
Many faces and people make Indonesia for me a lot better
India was kind of lonely by times. As the foreign intern, only white guy in a quiet neighborhood far from the center, life is not a party. To be fair life hardly ever is a party. But it is at least very very social here. I have a great new roommate who makes dinner much more fun. And we share the attention of 12 female exchange students and a couple of hundred Indonesians. Sometimes we take our white girls out. We are used to order 4 caps for that. I am in 6 new classes with around 120 new classmates which basically equals lots of names to forget. Not that I dare to say that they all look the same, but it is difficult sometimes to socialize. I need to pledge their Indonesia patience and kindness. It is wonderful to have every day filled with countless interactions and conversation and I even meet a pretty tall and pretty, Dutch physiotherapist at the pool. It is surpassing how time with somebody who does bodies for a living is manipulating my self-image while magnifying my hip problems.
Visa here is even worse than in India
The only thing you learn abroad is how little you know. When I moved to India I thought visas are annoying. Little did I know than how bad it could be. Knowing that I had plenty of time to get the Indonesian visa, and knowing that a (too much) paid agent would help me I was sure to have no trouble. I was so naïve. Late they told me my visa was waiting. “A visor waiting for me? When does that ever happen?”, I was so stupid. With a big smile I walked into the embassy and said: “I am Andreas Finzel and here to pick up my visa…” “Who are you and what’d you got?” After a week in chaos in Delhi I got that visa, entered the country just to realize that I still needed to process my immigration in Jakarta. I told the university here that I am not willing to pay for a visa that I didn’t get from them. First they actually agreed. Only for like 48h. They must have seen me as a troublemaker. I was just not willing to accept the lack of transparency and accountability that sounds so much better if you call it: “Cultural Differences…” In the end the withhold information and choices from me until my time ran out and told me on day before deadline: “You have ten minutes to decide: Do you want to try yourself or pay our agent 6.200.000 INR?” Other expats tell me that the Indonesian immigration system is simply not designed to welcome foreigners.
A wonderful waterfall in the jungle
After more than five weeks I finally managed to get out of the city for once. We went to a waterfall on a mountain. The white people thought of bringing sun blocker. The Indonesians actually used their brains to realize that a jacket is better. It has been amazing to finally see the real rural Indonesia. Above the hills, behind small farms, fancy villas and corporate training canters is the waterfall where Indonesians go for their Sunday retrain. The men bath in shorts only the women are basically dressed like they are in the office. I get why our girls don’t want to nor should bath in a Bikini. That would be a lot of white skin white a lot of brown eyes staring at them.
Soundtrack of my life: Meatloaf – Paradise by the Dashboard Light