Wednesday, December 14, 2011


One of the perks of living in a predominately Islamic country is that there is often plenty of alcohol to go around. Although the price of alcohol may be high, there are far less people who like to indulge than in your average western country. Nowhere is this more evident than when bars or pubs have anniversary nights. These usually consist of copious amounts of free beer for the masses. Yes, you heard me right, free beer.

To me, the concept of free beer is completely foreign. If they gave away free beer where I'm from, it would be absolute chaos. I cannot even predict how many people would show up, but the numbers would no doubt be staggering.

The other thing about this is that it is not 2 free beers or a free pitcher. It is as much beer as you can drink for an average span of 2 to 4 hours. Trust me from experience, you can drink a lot of beer in that time, even more than you think since there is this constant underlying fear of the beer running out.

At the most recent free beer soiree, there was an insurance company doing a lucky draw at the door. Really, this was just a marketing tool designed to get phone numbers so that they could try to get you to buy their products. I entered anyways. After going inside and running into many familiar faces who I often only see at free beer events, I thought twice about whether I should have given this insurance salesman my phone number.

Sure enough, the calls started a week or so later, then text messages. As I was busy, I ignored them for the most part. Then, one text message indicated that I should get in touch with them as they had some "good news" for me. I was still convinced that this was some kind of pitch and that the "good news" was going to be how much money I could save if I purchase their life insurance package. Finally, tired of the pestering, I picked up when they called me.

To my pleasant surprise, they informed me that the "good news" was that I was indeed the winner of a free iPad and that I could pick it up any time I wanted to. I excitedly agreed to stop by their office for a photo op a couple of days later. The agent also slyly persuaded me into looking into health insurance since I was coming in. I found it hard to say no since they were giving me a no strings attached piece of expensive electronics.

After hearing his health insurance song and dance, I told him I would think about it, as it did seem like a good package. I then got my new iPad and have not stopped playing with it since. To add icing to the cake, my office is considering changing our health insurance policy to the one presented to me, which means I won't have to pay for it.

So as it turns out, it pays to drink free beer. Keep that in mind the next time you say there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Eat A Bowl of Shit

Yesterday, after doing some vigorous cleaning around the house, I decided that I would go for a well deserved massage. A friend had recently recommended a new place that is pretty close to my house. I got on my motorbike and made my way to the massage place, which is less than 5 minutes away from my house, or so I thought. My ride turned into an absolute nightmare that resulted in me having to eat the biggest bowl of shit ever. Here is how it unfolded....

I was driving through a complex that is a pretty slow and casual place to be driving. I go through this area regularly, almost on a daily basis. As I was coming up to a left turn (bear in mind that you drive on the LEFT in Indonesia) a bike coming in the opposite direction came flying around the corner driving not on the left but the right side of the road. To put this in perspective, this driver was making a RIGHT turn while driving on the RIGHT side of the road. Try to visualize this if you can, it is pretty much the most reckless and ridiculous thing one can do. In a panic, as the bike was about to hit me, I honked my horn. As he swerved around me, I kind of threw my hands in the air as to say (without actually speaking, this is important) "what in the world are you thinking?"

That was the end of that, or so I thought. I continued down the road and the driver of the other bike turned around and pulled up next to me and started asking what my problem was. I replied that I had no problem only that he should consider driving on the LEFT side of the road. He demanded I pull over, this seemed ridiculous to me so I kept on going. As we hit the end of the street, he veered left and I continued right. He started screaming, turned around again, pulled up beside me and started demanding that we go to the police office. I kind of laughed and just kept driving. He then jackknifed his bike in front of mine, forcing me to stop. This road is relatively slow one that is filled with houses on both sides. I expected a crowd to form immediately, it didn`t.

The man was somewhat older and extremely enraged. The whole conversation took place in Bahasa Indonesia but I will write in English only to save time.

Him: "You verbally insulted me, why did you do that"

Me: "I honked my horn so you wouldn't hit me when you were coming around the corner, there was no verbal insult."

Him: "I didn't hit you so what is your problem, why did you insult me? What country are you from?"

Me: "What does it matter what country I'm from? The only reason you didn't hit me was because I honked my horn, how is that an insult?"

Him: "I'm 50 years old, you can't speak to me like that!!"

Me: "Does that give you the right to drive on the WRONG side of the road????"

Him: "I demand we go to the police station, come with me to the police station now!!!"

Me: "You want to go to the police station, seriously? What are you going to tell them, that you were recklessly driving on the WRONG side of the road and almost caused an accident?"


Me: "No, I'm not going to the police station, I didn't insult you but I will apologize if that's what you want."

Him: "Do you know who I am? police station now!!!"

He then proceeded to reach over and grab my keys out of my ignition. I grabbed his wrist and twisted and pulled his hand as hard as I could until he dropped my keys. I pulled him so hard that he kind of fell over onto my bike and knocked it over. Usually when there is any kind of incident like this in Indonesia, a crowd forms instantly. I wanted this to happen so that I could get out of this situation as this man seemed to be absolutely insane. As he fell over onto my bike, I grabbed my keys and told him to back off. At this point, no crowd had formed yet. I started thinking that he was going to come at me again and that I was going to have to fight my way out of this situation. I haven't been in a fight or even so much as thrown a punch at anybody in the last 25 years but, if he was going to come at me again, I felt I would have no choice but to hit him.

A minute later, a group of men came over to see what all the fuss was about. I was extremely relieved as I did not want to have a physical altercation. Alright, I thought, they'll sort this situation out and tell this guy to get lost and leave me alone. One of the guys was the head security guy for the housing complex. These guys are usually the local complex "police" and nobody dares to mess with them. I started telling the security guy how he chased me and tried to take my keys. They asked that we go over to their booth 100 meters away. I agreed and went over there. I continued to tell my story to the security guy while the guy from the other bike kept shouting "Police station NOW, you are insulting!" I started to notice the body language of the security guy and his friends. They were a little afraid of this man from the bike and wouldn't tell him to stop shouting or to leave me alone.

Eventually, the security guy convinced me to come speak with him in a little food stall behind his booth.

Security: "I believe everything you say and that you did not insult him but only honked your horn but you need to understand that this man belongs to an important organization and has very powerful friends. We have no choice but to do what he says or I will have big problems."

Me: "Sir, I don't want to go to the police station, they will just make me pay money or try to take my bike away. I did NOT insult this man, this whole situation is ridiculous to me, I just want to go home."

Security: "The only way to make him happy is to give him money, I don't like this man very much but I have no choice but to do what he says or I will be in big trouble, sorry sir."

Me: "So he drives like a maniac and then chases me and tries to take my keys and I have to give him money? This does not seem very fair to me, especially since I didn't do anything wrong."

Security: "I agree with you, sir but your choices are to either give him some money or call the police and have them come here." (I knew right then and there that I would probably be forced to give the police even more money, not to mention that they were probably friends of this other guy)

Me: "OK fine, how much should I give him? is 100 thousand ($9) enough?" (By the way the driver was dressed, I could tell that he had money, he did not care about the amount of money but merely wanted to show me how important he was and rub my face in it)

Security "Sir, that should be OK, people only give me 25 thousand ($2.75) when I ask for money, let me go talk to him, wait here`

Security `Sorry sir but he says that you must give another 50 thousand ($4.50) or we have to call the police`

Me: `That`s not fair, sir but I will pay it` (paying the police off would have cost me a LOT more)

Security: `Sir, he has agreed not to call the police, you can go now. I`m sorry, sir, please don`t think we are bad people who hate westerners `

Me: `OK, thank you sir, I don`t think that way, I only think that other man is crazy`

Security: `Me too, sir`

I then went outside and the other driver who was previously in a rage had completely calmed down. I said nothing to him as I walked back to my bike. He mentioned something about learning some manners. Knowing when I am defeated, I gave him an evil scowl, got on my bike and went to the massage place.

After having time to reflect on this situation, the bad taste in my mouth still lingers. I don`t feel that I did anything wrong and, even had I insulted this man, did not deserve to be treated this way. This was a reminder for me of how corrupt and ridiculous a country this is and how some `elite`people can do whatever they want whenever they want. It was absolutely shocking to see the security guy cower in front of this so called important man. They are usually pretty much at the top of the food chain and are feared by most.

I would like to point out that this is one of the worst incidences I have ever been involved with and that the vast majority of Indonesian people here, even rich corrupt ones, usually treat others with respect and deal with things in a civilized manner.

I have been daydreaming and hoping that by some strange twist of fate this man one day needs something from me. I would make him publicly kiss my hand and admit that he is evil and corrupt. Doubt that will ever happen but one can always dream.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Karma Beer

When it comes to getting around Jakarta, public transport is the only option for many. For those of us who are lucky enough to be able to afford taxis or who actually own a vehicle, the idea of using public transport is foreign. Admittedly, I rarely use it as it tends to be hot and slow. I sometimes take a mini bus that takes me directly to a plaza near my home. Otherwise, the logistics and headache make me not want to bother.

Yesterday, I decided to visit the northern regions of Jakarta. I planned on taking the transjakarta busway there (and even planned my route online) but changed my mind due to the rain. After the rain did not cease for hours, I gave in and called a taxi. The ride did not take that long and only cost (toll road fees included) Rp. 70 000 (around $8). Bear in mind that that is a somewhat expensive taxi ride by Jakarta standards. After spending some time at Emporium Mall in Pluit (went all the way to North Jakarta to hang out in yet another mall, I made my way to Mangga Dua Square to the tune of Rp. 35 000 ($4) in a taxi.

Once finished in there, I decided it was time to make the inevitable journey home. I started doing the math in my head and realized that, with toll fees and a tip, it was going to cost me Rp 120 000 ($13) to get home. This is an obscene amount to pay for a taxi. A fare of this magnitude is usually reserved for trips to the airport or an out of town excursion. That amount of money is a nice dinner and a couple of beers at a pub in Jakarta.

Since I was in no rush and it was past 8 p.m. (traffic subsides at night), I decided to give public transit a try. Step 1 was figuring out where/how I would get home. The first mini bus I saw outside was destined for Kota station, the first stop on the transjakarta busway 1st corridor. Sorted! I hopped on and had an interesting 15 minute ride to Kota station. This leg cost me a grand total of Rp. 2 000 (25 cents). From there, it was a short walk to the busway entrance where I bought a ticket for Rp. 3 500 (40 cents) and almost immediately got on an empty bus.

The great thing about corridor 1 of the busway is that it has it's own exclusive lane that cuts right through one of the busiest areas of the city. It also covers a great amount of road as it only took me 25 minutes to get from beginning to end of the route. The last stop is Blok M terminal, which is the transit hub (among other things) of South Jakarta.

Once finished in there, I had to decide what to do next. Blok M terminal is filled with buses that go to every place you can imagine. There are buses that go near my house but not directly to it. The other problem is that some buses sit in the terminal for up to 30 minutes while you sit and wait. Feeling that I did not want to deal with this headache, I opted for an ojek (motorbike taxi). Before boarding an ojek, one must negotiate the price. After some haggling, I agreed on Rp. 25 000 ($2.75). Had I been more persistent, I could have gotten down to Rp. 20 000 ($2.25) but the driver had an entertaining quality and I didn't feel like persisting.

10 minutes later and Rp. 25 000 in the driver's hand, I was home. The whole trip took me around 1 hour and 15 minutes and cost me a mere Rp. 30 500 ($3.40) which meant that I had saved around Rp. 90 000 ( $10). Admittedly, the trip did take me an extra 30 minutes or so but it was well worth it. I don't know if I would want to repeat this trip in the daytime as the heat and traffic factors would come into play. This whole ordeal has made me somewhat change my opinion of public transit. As for the $10 I saved, that money is going directly towards what I like to call "karma beer" which will go directly into my new bar fridge.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Times, They Are A Changin'

There's a new outdoor cafe culture sweeping across Jakarta. It consists of a wide array of food, snacks and drinks mixed with the choice of sitting on an outdoor patio or in air conditioned comfort. They are open 24 hours a day and seem to be exponentially appearing across the Jakarta landscape. Maybe you've heard of it before, it's a little store known as 7/11.

When I first moved to Jakarta, there were no 7/11's. I recall transiting in Taipei on my way to Jakarta and being blown away by the amount of 7/11's they had there. They were practically on every street corner and were the everything in one store. Ditto when I visited Thailand years later. Eventually, they found their way to Jakarta and managed to improve on the original model.

The first 7/11's appeared a little over a year ago an weren't met with much fanfare. I simply noticed and thought "oh, 7/11, maybe I can get a slurpee one day" Then, I actually visited one. They had a widely expanded variety of food and beverages, including my favorite; beer. Hanging out at 7/11 gradually became the hip thing for Indonesian people to do on a Saturday night as it was not uncommon to see 50 motorbikes parked in front of some of them.

The whole idea sprouted from the Circle K chain of convenience stores. Many young people in South Jakarta who couldn't afford (or didn't like) to drink in bars or pubs would simply meet their friends at Circle K, buy a large bottle of beer and drink it on the curb outside. This became increasingly popular, especially in the Kemang area. 7/11 had the brilliant idea to take this one step further by adding patio tables with umbrellas,air conditioned upstairs lounges with free wi-fi and public toilets.

Nowadays, certain 7/11's seem to always have people in them from morning coffee patrons to the lunch crowd to the after work drink crowd to the late night one more for the road crowd. I have increasingly started to meet friends at 7/11 for an early evening beverage or 2 before hitting the town. There is also a pretty good chance that I will see someone I know having an after work drink if I stop in to buy something. This has totally changed the game as there aren't many outdoor places to sit in Jakarta that are affordable and have a nice atmosphere.

The newest installment of 7/11 is very close to my house and has left me with mixed feelings. The lot that it is located on previously had what is known as night warungs. This is basically a large area of long tables and chairs that are surrounded by different food stalls. Kind of like an outdoor food court with more authentic food. It was one of my favorite places to eat dinner thanks to the variety and atmosphere. This place was also very popular with the locals as it always seemed to be busy. One day, I drove down there to get some fried noodles and, to my shock and dismay, the stalls had been demolished. I could not wrap my head around why such a successful group of businesses would shut down.

A month later, I got my answer: a brand new shiny 7/11 with more patio tables than I've ever seen. The good thing is that I have a new local hangout to enjoy a beverage or 2 with my friends. The bad thing is that all of that tasty authentic Indonesian food I loved has been traded in for big bite hot dogs, slurpees and pre-packaged sandwiches. I really don't know how to feel about this. As Bob Dylan once said so long ago "The times, they are a changin"

I can either learn to adapt or be left behind. There is so much to ponder with a cold beer on a patio on a Wednesday afternoon.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Best Game You Can Name

As I've mentioned before, the thing I miss the most from back home is hockey. After numerous attempts (in vein) to get the cable company that carries hockey installed I finally gave up. Then, one day, out of nowhere, a glimmer of hope appeared. A new cable operator called Skynindo that had the channel I was desperately searching for (In HD as well!). I called them up and they informed me that they could indeed have it installed in my home by the end of the week. This filled me with excitement as I was FINALLY going to be able to watch the NHL playoffs in the comfort of my own home. After some back and forth discussion with the sales rep, we agreed that the technician(s) would come on Saturday.

I made it a point to be home on that day and not preoccupied as technicians often show up without hammers or ladders and require assistance. As promised, the technician(s) showed up at 2 P.M. after asking for directions a couple of times. To my surprise, they were ready to go, complete with their own tools. They chose a spot to install the satellite and went to work. I was impressed by the spot they chose since I've had lots of trouble with the location of my other cable satellite.
As they went to work, I informed them that I would be inside if they needed anything. That was at 2:15 P.M. Over the next couple of hours, I looked outside every 20 minutes or so to make sure that they were OK. They seemed to be taking a very long time as previous satellite installations had taken as little as 15 minutes. I decided to leave them be as they seemed to know what they were doing.

They eventually re-appeared at 4:45 P.M. asking if I had a television that they could use. Confused, I asked for clarification. They said that they wanted to take a television up to the roof to test if the satellite was working properly. The only television I have is my 32 inch flat screen and I told them that there was no way that they were taking it up to the roof and that they would just have to run the cable down (as they would eventually have to anyways) to the television. They begrudgingly agreed. I didn't bother asking them how they planned on plugging the television in up on the roof.

After I showed them where the cable had to come into the house, they ran t
he cable and plugged it into the converter box. Step 1
complete, success! The next step was to connect the converter box to the television; easy, right? Not so much. After the 2 of them spent 20 minutes fumbling around, I decided to step in and help. The converter to television connection was a component cable, like the one used to connect a dvd player. When I stepped in to help, they were basically guessing where to plug the wires in. I tried to explain to them (without being patronizing) that the blue wire goes in the blue holes and that the green wire goes in the green holes etc. Each time it wouldn't work, they would disconnect a wire and try it in a different hole. (for example: blue wire in red hole? No! How about blue wire in white hole?) They were convinced that they would eventually get it right. I shooed them out of the way and connected it properly. After it was all colour coded and ready to rock, it still wasn't working. I informed them that it had to be the converter box or the satellite. They didn't listen, they started randomly trying the wires in different slots again.

By this point, I was losing my patience. I asked a friend (there were 5 friends sitting on my couch being entertained this whole debacle, especially since one of my friends pointed out that the one technician looked just like Chris Rock) how to say 'guess' in Bahasa. Again, I explained to the technician that he couldn't just guess where the wire went, that the colours HAD to match and that he could NOT just randomly try different holes. They only work in the hole that has the matching colour. This time, I seemed to get through to him. He replied with "Ooooooh gitu" (oh, like THAT) and went back out to the satellite and managed to get a signal. He got a semi decent signal and, in order to make it better, he decided to switch the blue and green wires. This resulted in a black & white picture with a green-ish tinge. "Udah, Mister!" (done) he cried triumphantly. I had to disappoint him by pointing out that the picture is supposed to be in colour (not to mention HD) and not black & white with a green tinge. Again, I switched the wires back to where they were supposed to be, making him watch and sent them back to the satellite. After a good 30 minutes of playing around, they managed to get a clear picture.

Just as they did, a hockey game appeared on my television which was met by a boisterous applause by the peanut gallery on the couch. That's the end of this ordeal, or so I thought. Not so much, I still had to sort out the bill. They had attempted to charge me for transport and vastly over charged me for the length of cable used (you pay by the meter). Luckily, I had my tape measure sitting on the table and went about measuring the cable. After 2 minutes of this, they gave up and agreed that it was probably 10 meters less than the 25 meters they had written down. It was even less than that but I couldn't be bothered. They were refusing to budge on the transport fee as their office was "Jauh" (far away). After threatening to call the sales manager, they begrudgingly removed the transport fee. Nobody else who had ever installed anything in my house had ever tried to charge me for transport and I'd be dammed if they were going to be the first. Finally, everything was settled. Not so much.

They told me that the balance of the bill (including that satellite that I had to buy) had to be paid in cash to them. These guys were sketchy looking on their best day and there was no way I was handing them a big wad of cash. After 3 or 4 phone calls, I got their boss to agree to let me deposit the money into his account the next day on the condition that I provided them with a photocopy of my passport. I told him that I didn't have a photocopy of my passport on me and that it was not the easiest thing to obtain on 6:30 P.M. on a Saturday night. He said to give my passport to the technicians and have them go find a place. NOT GONNA HAPPEN! Finally, I "remembered" that I did have a photocopy of my passport laying around in my room. I quickly changed the passport number on the contract I had filled out and gave them a photocopy of my old passport that expired in June 2009. They didn't notice and were happily on their way after spending a mere 5 hours at my house.

Tired and sweaty, I went inside and cracked a well deserved beer and watched the good ol' hockey game. Since that day, I have been fortunate enough to watch playoff hockey on a nightly basis and have managed to even get some of my British friends interested in it. Life is good despite the Detroit Red Wings losing a 7th game heartbreaker. As Stopmin Tom Connors says, it is "The best game you can name, that good ol' hockey game"

GO CANUCKS! Bring the Cup back to Canada!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Last week, a few expat friends and I were sitting around discussing which malls in Jakarta we prefer. The irony of this conversation was not lost on us as we all agreed that the concept of "liking" a certain mall back in our respective countries is ridiculous or even laughable. There is a very specific breed of adult human who frequents malls in western countries. The rest (majority) of the population view the mall as a place that is only visited when deemed absolutely necessary. These necessary visits are either for Christmas shopping OR to buy something that is only available at a certain store in a certain mall. In these situations, the mall visit is a commando style get-in-get-out-as-fast-as-possible mission. There is no window shopping, strolling or visits to the food court, just the task at hand.

In Jakarta, this is just not the case. The mall is the place to be for people of all ages. It is not simply the cool choice but the ONLY choice. You see, Jakarta has a severe shortage of sidewalks, parks and basically places that make it possible to walk. This makes a mall very appealing to people here as they can walk without being hit by a motorbike or getting black smoke in their face. The mall is an oasis of sorts, an escape from the filthy, hot, smoky, humid stench ball of a city that this place can be at times. Malls are air conditioned, clean and spacious. Perfect for a casual stroll. This is the main reason that most Indonesians go to malls. Most don't actually go to purchase goods or services but simply to move around and take in the sights.

This may leave you asking why a young expatriate man who does not enjoy shopping or walking in malls visit a mall so often. The answer is simple, it is an all in one place where you can eat, see and do things that are not otherwise possible. I am ashamed to admit that I have spent up to 8 hours in a mall in a single day. The mall is where I go to eat, work out, watch movies, buy groceries, buy household items (, meet friends for a coffee and even clubbing. Yes, all of these things and so much more in one convenient location.

Convenient is a word that would never be used to describe anything in Jakarta. Most simple chores involve fighting horrendous traffic, searching in vein and lack of parking. A mall, on the other hand, has almost everything you need under one roof. The convenience of having a nice meal followed by grabbing a few things at a supermarket is just so much easier than trying to do those things separately. Factor that in with the relative closeness to home and the avoidance of the outside world hassles and you have the perfect place.

What is my favorite mall you ask? Easy, it is Pondok Indah Mall (better known as PIM). To be more specific, it is PIM 2. You see, there is a PIM 1 and a PIM 2 that are on
opposite sides of the street and connected by sky bridges. This is my favorite mall for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, it is a mere 5 minute casual drive from my house. This is an extremely short time/distance to go somewhere in Jakarta, it might as well be right next door! Secondly, the fitness club I belong to is located there. Third, they have an excellent selection of food that is varied in price and style. Other amenities there that I partake in include the supermarket, ace hardware, book store, reflexology massage shop and newly opened beer garden.

An average weekday visit to the mall would consist of me arriving, going to a yoga class, getting some food to make for dinner that night (or get some food from a restaurant to go), having a casual stroll trying to remember what the other that I wanted to not forget to buy was, peek inside the book store and then head home. I go through this routine at a minimum of 3 times a week. Other times, I may simply pop in to grab some food or to get whatever other item it is that I may need. Ironically, it is much easier to drive my motorbike there, park and get the thing I need as opposed to going elsewhere.

It is pointless to name names of other malls that I like or dislike. What is important to know is that the supply of malls in Jakarta far outweigh the demand. Malls vary in size and quality but there are quite a few boutique malls that cater to the filthy rich. I don't make it to these malls very often and when I do, it is usually strictly for eating or entertainment as many of these malls have great clubs that are open until the wee hours of the morning. Oddly enough, fewer than 5% of Jakartans can actually afford to shop in these monstrosities yet there are a good dozen of these malls.

Love it or hate it, the mall culture is alive and kicking in Jakarta. What amazes me is that they just keep building more and more of them and people keep packing them. A large number of visitors to the mall don't buy much besides an ice cream cone or refreshment which leaves me to wonder how some of these high end places manage to pay their rent. From what the locals tell me, this mall culture is a relatively new phenomenon as most of them are less than 10 years old.

So tell me, what is your favorite mall in Jakarta? By my personal bias, I think that Pondok Indah Mall is hard to beat with Grand Indonesia coming in at a close second. Anyone who leaves negatives comments towards PIM will see my mall-icious side.

Bonus Fact: I spent my last new year's eve at a restaurant/club inside a mall

Saturday, May 14, 2011

When the Lights Go Down in the City

Recently, my landlord informed me that they had to do some "repairs" to the house's electrical metering device thingy. To my astonishment, it turned out to be a new pay as you go type of meter. It's a simple device really, you basically buy credit and enter the numbers into the device. When you are nearly out of credit, the device starts beeping (like an alarm clock) every 20 minutes. When your credit runs out, the lights go out.

When this was first installed, the guy who installed it informed me that there was enough credit on there to last for the next couple of hours or so. This meant that I had to immediately go out and find an ATM machine and buy credit. This happened at a very inopportune time when it also happened to be raining. In the end, I managed to get credit and avoided a Saturday evening blackout.

This prevented me from having the pleasure of hearing the soothing sounds of "the lights are about to go out" alarm. This did eventually happen. Luckily, the meter is right outside my bedroom window. This worked out quite well as I was woken up at 3 A.M. by the alarm going off. It continued to go off in 20 minute intervals all night long. The only way to stop this is to buy more credit, which is not really an option in the middle of the night. I woke up to a hot stuffy room with no electricity. I managed to shower in the dark and immediately went searching for an ATM machine so I could top up my credit.

You would think that I would learn my lesson and not allow this to happen again. NO! A couple of days ago, I noticed that the level was getting low and that I should buy some credit soon. I forgot to do it that day. The next evening, I came home at 11 P.M. and heard the alarm going off. I realized that I had completely forgotten to buy credit. I decided to immediately go to the closest ATM and buy some credit as I didn't want to be kept up all night by the alarm, not to mention waking up to no electricity.

I went to the ATM, followed the steps of buying credit and was astonished to not have a receipt come out of the machine. The receipt is of the utmost importance as it contains the numbers you have to punch into the meter in order to top up your credit. Basically, this meant that I had just lost Rp. 500 000 ($50). I insisted that the guys at the convenience store (where the ATM was located) call the bank. They said not to worry but I insisted as I was not giving up my money without a fight. After answering a barrage of skill testing questions, the bank agreed to delete the purchase and put the money back in my account.

Relieved, I left the store only to soon realize that I hadn't managed to buy any credit. At this time of night, there was no other ATM machine within a reasonable driving distance. Dejected and tired from the 30 minutes I spent in the convenience store, I went home and prayed that the electricity would not go out. After a relatively sleepless night (guess why), I woke to a cool room that still had lights. I gave myself a high five and got into the shower. Halfway through my shower, lights out. I finished yet another shower in the dark and went searching for an ATM machine that had not run out of receipt paper. I found one and managed to get credit with relative ease, or so I thought.

Upon triumphantly returning with my receipt, I realized that the printing on the receipt was very blurry an spotty. The ink was about to run out on that ATM machine printer. This made it very difficult to decipher the 16 digit code. After 4 or 5 botched attempts (due to mistaking 8's for 3's etc) I managed to successfully enter the code and light and comfort once again returned to my humble home.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson and will manage to buy credit before it runs out next time. I would like to thank the PLN (Indonesian Electric company) as well as my landlord for putting me in this lovely predicament. I guess this is my reward for paying my bill on time for years on end.