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Some things I have learned about Bandung

8 October 2011

I took this photo on the university campus where I am teaching. These are paddy fields (sawah). Padi is rice in the husk. There is your lesson in Bahasa Indonesia for today! I was beside a campus building close by the buildings of the Faculty of Communication Sciences (FIKOM). I did not use zoom! I could have taken three steps and rolled down the slope and landed in the mud with the plantings.

One of the new things I have learned is that Crocs (yes, the plastic shoes) are very popular here. I know that’s not very exciting, but as a shoe fanatic, I always notice what people are wearing on their feet. The familiar Crocs clogs are worn by children of all ages, and the ladies’ flats are really popular with the college students.

At the upscale Paris Van Java shopping mall (where I went to see a movie), I learned that the prices of things such as Crocs, Kipling bags, and Converse All Stars (yeah, shoes) are the same as U.S. prices. So I’m sure the masses of Indonesians must be buying these someplace else. (There are outlets here.)

I learned that a pretty nice fully furnished two-bedroom apartment in a very modern high-rise building will cost me about $1,400 U.S./month. This is probably very expensive and they are probably overcharging me, but they do not want to negotiate. That’s not including Internet or electricity … but it does include maid service.

In the supermarket, I paid about $7 U.S. for six 1.5-liter bottles of mineral water, a box of 15 tea bags, a big bottle of honey (sore throat), and a four-pack of Activa yogurt. However, food prices in Indonesia increased by 13.2 percent in the year ended August 2010, and many people must choose between being hungry and other necessities.

I learned that getting the work permit (KITAS) from the local Immigration office here in Bandung takes many, many visits.

Day 1 (Thursday): I went with my boss (the Journalism Department head) and my colleague Dandi. We were told we needed a document. Day 2 (Friday): I went back with the document, two students who spoke some English, and my boss’s driver (who speaks no English — like the officials at Imigrasi — that’s why the students were sent). We had to get some forms and buy a special pink folder (we brought a blue folder with us, but they didn’t want that one). I haven’t mentioned the traffic in Bandung yet, have I? Each of these little trips to the Immigration office took quite a while, although I’m sure it seems longer than it really is, because the traffic often moves slowly here.

Day 3 (Monday): I went back to the office with the driver and a wonderful student who spoke great English, and we finally got the forms submitted. The student filled them in for me because all the text is in Bahasa Indonesia, and I wouldn’t know half the answers anyway, as they are about the university. The fee was about $77 U.S. Thank goodness we got them submitted, because that was my seventh day in Indonesia, and that was the last day for me to file. (I have no idea what would have happened if I were late.)

Everyone is very, very pleasant and nice. We all smile at one another all the time. I am practicing my very best calm and peaceful Asian demeanor. I am in no hurry. I have plenty of time. I say thank you often! The traffic does not make me feel tense or angry, and the long conversations about me and my documents in a language I understand very little of are perfectly okay. Just so you don’t misunderstand — I mean every word of that sincerely. We were told back in the U.S. that the process would take time and we must be patient. I was prepared. I am experienced at meditation. I can wait a long time. And smile! After all, these folks are doing their jobs. Who am I to complain?

Day 4 (Wednesday): I returned to Immigration with another student, the driver, and a member of my boss’s staff (who can act officially for the university) — a very nice man named Engkos who has spent a lot of time helping me since then! This time I needed to have my photo taken and fingerprints made. They use an electronic device for the fingerprints, so no messy ink. All ten fingers. They were not able to do this on Monday. They had told us to come back on Wednesday. Oh, and I had been given a stack of suitable photos in Jakarta. I gave them to Imigrasi. But they had to make their own photos.

But we still weren’t done! No! So we went back Friday (Day 5 at Immigration!). There was yet another document they needed. I have no idea why they did not have it already. This time I was with Engkos and my own driver, Aris, who I hired on Tuesday. The document had not arrived (by fax) by 11:30 a.m., so then everyone went to pray. I went back to my hotel and had a nap. And after that — yes! I had my KITAS! There is a color certificate stapled in my passport and a little blue booklet to track me when I travel.

But I was not finished yet. The next step is to register with the local police. We had hoped to do that Friday morning. Aris and I went to see them while Engkos was at Imigrasi. (Aris speaks lovely English. Engkos doesn’t speak any.) But the police said: Come back when you have the KITAS.

After Friday prayers, we returned to the police station around 2 p.m. With my KITAS! But the foreigners office (Orang Asing) there had closed for the day!

That office is open on Saturday morning, however. So, bright and early today (Day 6), Aris and I went there with my passport and my new blue booklet. But we needed copies of things we had given to Imigrasi! We didn’t have any copies! And the immigration office was said to be closed on Saturday.

So on Monday (Day 7!), kind and patient Engkos will go to Imigrasi and get copies of my documents. Maybe then the police will be able to register me (hooray!). And then … I will need to go to another police office (at a different location) to get my Indonesia ID card.

More to come …

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