Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Half Assed

After spending a long time with very slow and sometimes nonexistent Internet from Indosat M2, I decided to make the big plunge and get Speedy home Internet. Upon arriving home from work, I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that the Internet was very fast by Indonesian standards. For once, things worked out just perfectly. A few friends told me that they had Speedy and that it was very slow. How well your Internet works seems to be geographic and there is no rhyme or reason to it. Lo and behold, things were not as perfect as they seemed.

The "technician" ran a wire from where the phone jack in the living room to the room that has the computer. He did a great job of neatly attaching a phone jack to the wire and plugging it into the modem. What he didn't do such a good job with was the placement of the wire. It is common practice here that wiring gets neatly attached to the wall/ceiling from it's source to where it is needed. This applies to telephone wires, cable or air conditioning wires. He decided that it was too much work and simply left it on the floor. It went from the phone jack, behind the fridge (source of heat and fire hazard), across the entrance to the kitchen, around the back of the television, under a couch, across the back door entrance, into the office (couldn't close the door without crushing the wire), and into the modem. In the initial excitement of trying out my new Internet connection, I failed to notice that I had almost tripped over the wire when entering the office. This really blew my mind, it set a new precedent for incompetence that would be hard to ever beat. I knew it was too good to be true.

When I asked the maid why the technician hadn't attached the wire properly to the wall. She said she asked him the same thing and that he said that it was "susah" (too difficult) and left. There isn't even an analogy that I can conjure up to put in perspective how ridiculous this is. Western standards of doing things are hardly ever met in this country but this was just plain stupid even by local standards.

I got on the phone with Speedy who told me I had to call Telekom (phone company). I called Telekom and they told me that I had to call Speedy. I refused and started throwing a fit on the phone (it was all an act to get something done). The operator then agreed to help me and said that all she could do was file a complaint with my local Telekom office. She said there was no promise of when (or if) they would come to fix it. I asked for the local Telekom office number so that I could call them directly and she told me that she didn't have it. I then went off on a tirade about how incompetent the whole Telekom company was and said that I was going to cancel all of my services with them. Once again she said there was no promise of what would happen. This country has taught me great patience but there are rare times when the only way to get something done is to yell. This, in my opinion, was one of those times.

After I got off the phone, my lady started giving me grief about how I had to be nice to people if I wanted them to help me . One hour later, 2 technicians appeared at my door. My lady didn't say a word but definitely saw the sinister grin on my face and knew I was right for once. These 2 guys were top notch, they couldn't believe that the other technician had left the wire as it was. They promptly fixed the problem by using a table with a chair on top as a makeshift ladder. It is not uncommon for somebody to show up at your house to let's say fix your roof and not have a ladder. Note to self: buy a ladder. Anyways, they flawlessly finished the whole job in 15 minutes and one of the guys even helped me with a computer problem that I thought was an Internet problem. To their pleasant surprise, I gave them both some "uang rokok" (cigarette money) and thanked them for doing such a great job.

Despite the incompetence, I must say that speedy Internet is great and that I highly recommend taking advantage of their current promotion if you happen to live in Jakarta. If a technician named Rizky shows up, tell him that I said that he is the laziest bastard on the planet. If you live on the other side of the world, screw you and your lightning fast Internet! I tested my connection today and it can download at 0.86 Mbps and I am absolutely thrilled with this speed.

P.S. Upon doing spell check, I learned that "Internet" is spelled with a capital I. I have no idea why, it's not a person's name or a country. Maybe it's just really important.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Rats have completely taken over my house. A few weeks ago, I noticed that there was a hole in the dirt section of one of the cinder blocks on the ground in the front of my house. I figured a rat had done it and put some metal screen material over it. Problem solved I thought. I didn't really pay attention much after that since I thought the rat had found a new place to lay it's head. Well, a few days ago I had a look and realized that there are now 10 or so holes and that rats have even chewed through the screen material!

I went to have a look because I started to notice rats coming in the back courtyard of my house and even saw 1 or 2 inside the house. Jakarta rats are humongous an
d not to be taken lightly. It is pretty terrifying to see one inside your home. I prefer to make lots of noise and try to scare them back outside. Having rats outside your gate eating garbage is a normal sight around here but I have to draw the line somewhere.

So I went outside one night
and watched the holes. I saw 2 baby
rats and 1 large rat enter the holes in less than 10 minutes. Time to take matters into my own hands I thought. Despite having a very large and healthy rat population, rat traps are pretty much impossible to find in Jakarta. There is poison and these sticky papers that the rats get stuck on. Poisoning them isn't such a great idea as you will have the stench of death in and around your home for a long time. The sticky paper works
to an extent if you manage to put it in a place where a rat happens to step on it. Once it does get stuck, you can either let it sit there dying for days on end or kill it yourself. I wouldn't have a problem with killing a rat or 2 if it came down to it but I'd rather not if given the choice.

A friend of mine recommended using a special kind of poison that dries out the bodies and eliminates the stink. I put out one packet in the back and one in the front of the house. They were both devoured within 30 minutes, must be some tasty poison. So I kept an eye out the next day for dead rats. I didn't see any but I didn't expect to since they go to hide when dying. Come that evening, there were even more rats entering the hole (I tried filling the hole with water but it just wouldn't fill up as the water was exiting somewhere else). I made a loud noise to try and scare them out and 3 other large rats hiding in the corner of the yard scurried away and scared me half to death. Later that night, rats were literally clawing at the front door of my house trying to get inside.

I'm now at the point where I don't know what to do. There are potentially countless rats living directly below where I lay my head to sleep and they will just keep multiplying. I'm mulling around with doing one massive Jim Jones style poisoning but I'm afraid that even "dry" poison will not mask that stench. Any ideas?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Got it Maid

So like many people in Jakarta, my maid left to "pulang kampung" for the Idul Fitri holiday. She left on the 15th of September and didn't return until yesterday. I feared that she would not return and that I would have to once again jump through flaming hoops in order to find a new maid. This coupled with a story I read that proclaimed that 25% of all domestic workers (maids, nannies, drivers) don't return after the end of Ramadan made me start to worry. They are often unable to come back because of family issues or lack of funds. Could you imagine me, a grown man, doing my own dishes and laundry? I did do many of these domestic chores while my maid was away without thinking about it. Laundry (especially ironing) is high on my list of things I don't like to do so there was quite a lot of ironing to do when she did return. She didn't reply to any of our text messages or calls and then suddenly appeared at our house 2 days ago profusely apologizing and hoping that her job was still available. I didn't let on how happy I was to see her and told her that she could indeed continue to work for us.

Even with my upbringing and years of doing chores for myself, I actually took my maid for granted for a little while. It is not uncommon to hear people complaining about their maids or drivers in this town. It sounds extremely arrogant but really it isn't much different than complaining about a bus driver or a bad waitress. I would love for one of my friends from back home to eavesdrop on one of these conversations and be appalled by the complaints of improperly cooked food, missing socks, poorly mopped floors or how she never cleans the toilet without being asked. I'm sure that they would have great empathy while walking around with baby puke stains on their shirts because they haven't had time to do the laundry and need to get dinner cooked first.

Despite having somebody do your dirty work for you, there are still moments of frustration. My most memorable was years ago when I bought an electronic coffee grinder only to have my maid diligently wash the whole thing after I had used it once. This pretty much destroyed the grinder and ended up being the first and last time I used it. Luckily, she unplugged it before washing it. I tried very hard to hide my disappointment and told her it was OK. She begged me not to fire her and I explained that I would not fire her for something like that. She was shocked and confused I think. Over the years, many people have told me that maids like working for expats because they do outlandish things such as give them national holidays off, increase their salaries and let them do whatever they want at night. I used to get very confused when I first moved here and my maid would ask me if she could go outside and hang out with her friends in front of the house. When I told her she didn't have to ask, she told me I was a very nice man.

The events of the last couple of weeks have been a real wake up call for me. I'm going to give my maid a big hug when I get home tonight and tell her I appreciate her. On second thought, maybe I won't do that because it could come across the wrong way. Going against the advice given to me, I gave her a Ramadan bonus (which is customary) and paid her whole month's salary despite her being gone for almost 3 weeks. People have warned me that if I am too nice that she will stop doing a good job with cleaning because she'll think I'm a pushover. I'm willing to take that risk if it means that I don't ever have to do ironing as long as I live.

Sorry it took me so long to write on here but I've been busy doing chores. I promise to write more often in the future.