Living in Indonesia: A Husband’s Perspective

This was originally written in 1998 … I haven’t changed much, other than punctuation.

Vantage graphics ... accept no substitutes

For me, the stress of this crisis began on Monday, May 18th.

“You’ve been ordered to leave.” Dini’s voice was rapid and strained.

“When?’ I asked as if someone was telling me the bar was about to close.

“This afternoon. Everyone’s meeting at the Shangri-La hotel.”

Dini, from the Canadian consulate, has been a great help. She’s helped with paperwork for our marriage; she intervened with an employer, and she has been a conduit for official information. Dini is also a very professional and pleasant person. Her clipped speech and frantic tone were completely out of character.

Basically, here was the situation. The Canadian Embassy and the US Consulate General Surabaya had chartered a flight. Canadians, Americans, Germans, Dutch and a couple of Turkish nationals were going to fly to Singapore.

For this excursion, they would pay the bargain price of $500 USD. Now, if you’re a businessman or an engineer – no problem. Teachers in Indonesia make between $300 and $450 USD per month. When you have a family, with children in school, you don’t have an excess of cash. My wife Emily and I have two children, Emily’s from a previous marriage, but nonetheless – our children. The wolf may indeed have been at the door, but that sucker was going hungry tonight. My family is my life and no crisis will change that.

On Sunday night we had a family meeting. I outlined the options.

Canada: We could spend everything we have and take the family to Canada. Canada is where I have family and friends, but no job to go back to. More importantly, I don’t have a place to stay, at least for any extended period.

America: I have friends there. Emily, my wife, has a visa. I love the country. It’s a damn expensive trip, and again I don’t have a home or a job there.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong is a big, beautiful and exciting city. Emily speaks passable Mandarin and her mother is fluent in Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese. The children’s Chinese is like my Indonesian: pathetic but earnest. Emily has family there. Hong Kong is impossible without money. Finding a job could be next to impossible. I want to see Hong Kong, but I’d prefer the experience to be a positive one.

Taiwan: The jobs are there in Taiwan. Many teachers have left for Taiwan. Would my family be allowed in? I can’t take the chance.

In the end, we decided to wait it out here.

With Wednesday’s impending madness (see story) almost upon us we discussed hiding out in one of Surabaya’s hotels or going out of town. We decided to wait on developments.

No one could give me a clear answer about the family. They’re Indonesian citizens, but they’re also Chinese. Even if Emily could come – as she’s my wife – what about the kids? Even if Emily and the kids were allowed, what about Emily’s mum? their Grandmother? my mother-in-law?

Do in-laws count as carry-on luggage? Don’t freak gentle reader – I love my mother-in-law. She’s a great lady. The bottom line is; I’m not leaving my family.

Norm Mcdonald from the Canadian Embassy said later that my family might be able to come out with me. On their own, Canadians have returned home. Some remain in Singapore waiting out the crisis.

Some will undoubtedly go to Taiwan or Thailand. Some will even go to Bali.

Some American friends are now in Bali, waiting.

We are now at home waiting for the situation to return to normal. Here we sit, packed suitcases and documents at the ready.

Local children are in the street. They’re playing volleyball. The ball makes a dull thud when they hit it. The balls here never seem to have enough air. They’re having fun.

Meanwhile, we sit behind our seven-foot iron fence – waiting.

Some streets, like the one directly in front of our house, are blocked by rusting cars and vans, while other streets are occupied by soldiers. The men seem decidedly less rusty than the cars and vans. The men seem to be having less fun than the children. The men are waiting.

People sit in small groups, talk, drinking and eating. Kaki Limas (five-legged men) the street merchants with their pushcarts, sell food and drink. The voices on the street are uncharacteristically low.

Sharing quick smiles, and nervous glances, hands together or resting on knees – they wait.

A young woman, eating food from a Kaki Lima, shakes her hips slowly and seductively to Ricky Martin’s ‘Maria‘. A large black rooster intrudes on the volleyball game. He exits quickly as the ball narrowly misses him. Too bad. He’s probably the noisy bugger who woke me up this morning, at three o’clock. The dancer has finished her meal and joined the game.

Young men, previously content to watch, have now joined the game. For now, they are moving, playing, and laughing. The waiting may come later.

Part Two fewnights2

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The monster, the master, and the masses

I come not to praise the American Dream, but to bury it. We have seen the savage and public assassination of common sense. We have seen the naked aggression of an orange orangutan, and we have witnessed both reward and appeasement. We watched as leaders, lawmakers and the media stood aside and the Republican Party was allowed to build up their creature. We watched as the Democrats, through their arrogance and their malfeasance, attached the electrodes.
Make no mistakes, have no illusions America; you all brought this bigly monstrosity to life.
This morning, I am not any more fearful, but I am awake. We have seen the enemy, and it remains us. We have looked into the abyss and the abyss has looked back and chuckled. It’s honestly not that bad. Your only problem is the same problem you had yesterday; you expect others to be better. Sorry, they aren’t – and they’re not likely to change. Business is run to make a profit. Banks run to make a profit, and politicians run to make a profit. A US Presidential campaign does not spend billions of dollars, directly and indirectly, to put someone in a position to make a few hundred thousand dollars a year. It pays that money to put a mechanism in place to manipulate and enable manipulation. The mechanism is oiled and placed to engineer profit. Nothing has changed.
His Orangeness is a disaster, but he is also a cynical master of BS and dream-manipulation. This saffron-hued, irritable and ill-mannered manifestation of intolerant self-entitlement is an immature masturbatory power fantasy that handily plays into the wish-fulfillment of the millions deserving of better lives. There exist impatient millions, deserving for no other reason than they’ve bought into the lie of the American Dream, and they are willing to follow the dream-whisperer.
Sorry dreamers, you had your chance and you blew it. With Carter, and again with Sanders – you blew it. The working class exists to be worked, the middle class exists to grease the wheels of industry. The rich exist to get richer. The poor exist to scare the resistance out of everyone and make them content to be above it all.
Your participation in this is not entirely dictated. You can be more educated. You can be more informed. You can be self-motivated. You can work to realize hopes and actualize dreams, or you can just choose to sit. Stop waiting for change. Stop blaming others. Do better. Don’t support leaders, policies or businesses that do harm. Make better choices. Take responsibility. Make a change within yourself.

Bullies

I was just reading Clifford Meth’s blog. Clifford Lawrence Meth (February 22, 1961) is an American writer and editor best known for his dark fiction.
Mr. Meth always has something to say about something, and it’s often relevant

This time he was writing about his son’s issues with bullies.
This is why is was relevant to me .
We’ve all met them. The little snots,the big jackasses and the more malicious cretins whose bullying is becoming the way to shut down comment or open, honest discussion.
We’ve dealt with them,been harassed by them, and may have even been them.
As a parent and as a teacher, I’ve tried to be aware of bullies, and to deal with them as effectively as possible. I would think I’ve failed as often as I’ve succeeded.

How do you deal with them when it’s your child being picked on.
Easy answer might be to sort it out yourself, as some parents and teachers have tried to do. Then of course, you’ve supplanted one bully with another.

My son Wyatt is five. The other bullies are five, or six perhaps.
We were at a birthday party for Wyatt’s classmates. It started as a play-fight. Things you see in schoolyards and school hallways everyday. The kids would throw their punches and let go with kicks, no one was hit,but the energy behind the actions started to escalate.
Watching it from a distance was not pleasant, but I made myself wait to see how Wyatt could deal with it. Wyatt didn’t punch or kick, just waved his hands at the others and then they moved in. I half stood and then the moment passed.
There were a few more incidents, but nothing came of them.
I’ve certainly seen the end results of more malicious incidents at school.
For me to step in as a parent or a teacher is to make the bullied more of a target, I can only hope that the few times I pulled a really nasty little snot away, or consoled a victim,that I’ve done some good.

I’ll leave you with this short bit of dialogue from one of my favorite films
‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ written by William Goldman
(this is actually from the original screenplay and Redbeard became Remington(played by Michael Douglas) in the movie)

REDBEARD
In my town, when I was little,
there was a brute, a bully who
terrorized the place.
(beat)
But he was not the problem. He
had a brother who was worse than
he. But the brother was not the
problem.
(beat)
One or the other of them was
usually in jail. The problem came
when they were both free together.
The two became different from
either alone.
(beat)
Alone they were only brutes.
Together they became lethal,
together they killed.

PATTERSON
What happened to them?

REDBEARD
(pause)
I got big.
(They move on)
(Used completely without permission,but with no realistic hope of profit)