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Kerupuk, police, and a haircut

11 October 2011

Kerupuk are crunchy snacks that come in at least a million varieties. Indonesians find them irresistible, and so do I. These are probably not officially kerupuk because they are slivers of ripe banana that are dipped in a thin batter (at right) and immediately fried. A bona fide kerupuk is made of dough or paste that is fried (see the big wok full of oil at left). These are left out to cool and dry, then packaged in clear plastic bags for sale. I got to sample these banana ones while they were still warm and soft. Sooo good!

The family is making a giant batch for packaging. They are working in the outermost corner of an open-fronted shop that sells many different kerupuk. There are a lot of these shops side by side along the street where my hotel is, Jalan Doktor Djunjunan, Pasteur. People stop their cars, jump out, select a bunch of bags full of different kerupuk, pay, and drive away. Meanwhile families like this young couple (their little son is out of sight to the left; he was shy) are making fresh new kerupuk all the time.

Today (Tuesday) was quite busy. It started with a drive to one police department (the one for registering foreigners) that I had already visited three times (see my previous post about the registration process). Yesterday was Day 7 in the process (not counting the days when I didn’t go to any government offices to comply with the rules for foreigners working in Indonesia). Yesterday was very frustrating for poor Mr. Engkos, who nevertheless kept his spirits up and a smile on his face. He went to the Immigration office to make copies of all the documents we had given them … but they would not allow copies to be made.

So he had to go back to the university campus and collect originals from everyone: the dean, the department head, and I don’t know who all. These are not just letters; they are stamped and sealed, and copies of the signers’ ID card must be attached. This took him a long time. Then Aris and I went to meet him and get the fat packet of documents. They were in a blue folder. I was a little worried when I saw that — I hoped it was the right color!

Kantor Orang Asing

Today (Day 8), Aris and I went to the police department for registering foreigners while Engkos went ahead to the other police department, which I think is a district office as opposed to regional. A police officer who spoke excellent English examined the packet. (The blue folder was apparently okay.) She asked for my passport and my KITAS. Now I would need to make a photocopy of … she started listing all the pages in my passport that must be copied.

We did that already, I said with a big smile. We gave them to you.

Not to me, she said. Ah, she was correct. I explained that after we saw her on Friday morning, we had returned Friday afternoon to find her office closed. (I was smiling as if that had been the highlight of my week.) So we came back Saturday, and two very nice police officers took the photocopies of my passport pages and my KITAS and so on.

She looked skeptical. I assured her they were very, very helpful. One of them spoke very good English and the other one didn’t speak any English. They were both great! They took my photocopies!

Still seeming a bit doubtful, she opened a cupboard and took out a very thick bundle of documents tied up in a folder. She untied it and started to go through them one by one, carefully keeping them in order. After about 12 pages, she held up one page and opened my passport and compared the two. Looked at me. Looked at the document. It had official stamps and seals on it. She made a little sound that seemed to mean: “Huh, that’s a surprise.”

About then, Aris came in, having parked the car. He and the officer had a little chat. She gave him my blue folder. Aris grinned at me and said we could go.

“Are we finished? What else do they need? Do we have to come back?” I asked (smiling, of course).

“Finished,” he said.

“But they didn’t keep any of –” I waved at the blue folder, which he was holding now.

He opened it and plucked at that document, the one the officer had found in the thick bundle. “This is what we needed here,” Aris said.

Just that. So now we could make a very long drive to some part of Bandung I had never seen before, where a very large police facility with a really huge sign (black letters on yellow: POLIS) occupies a maze of buildings. We met Engkos and went down a hall and up some stairs and down another hall and into some office with a long counter, where Engkos gave the blue folder to a police officer (and I hoped blue was the right color). They gestured toward me occasionally and talked for a long time. I handed over my passport and the small blue booklet, then had them returned to me. They talked. The police officer examined all my documents. He questioned something; Engkos said yes, yes, we have it, it’s here — and pulled it out.

In the end I handed over Rp 100,000 (about $10), the police officer gave Engkos a receipt, and we left. No ID card yet. It will be ready in about one month. At that time, Engkos will return (without me) and collect the card for me, paying an additional Rp 150,000.

Finished! Tomorrow I can go to the university!

A Hair Stylist Who Speaks English

This afternoon, I had my hair cut.

Those of you who have never stayed in a foreign country for very long, take a moment and think: Would you get a haircut from someone who shared no language with you? How would you tell her what you wanted?

Uh-huh. So yesterday I e-mailed two different Western women living in Bandung and asked them to recommend someone who not only speaks English but also knows how to cut Caucasian hair. The first woman e-mailed back right away and said she had found a wonderful stylist named Winnie, and her shop is Del Sole. I looked up the address online, plotted the location on Google Maps, and resolved to call Winnie today.

When I checked my e-mail this morning, I found that the second woman had also replied. She has a great hair stylist — someone named Winnie. She sent the phone number but not the salon name. Yep. Same Winnie.

It turns out Winnie is from Macau, the former Portuguese colony on the Chinese mainland that is near Hong Kong. She moved to Los Angeles and cut hair there for many years. That’s how she acquired her first-rate English skills (and her familiarity with Caucasian hair). While there, she met and married an Indonesian man. They are both of Chinese ancestry, so it’s not as improbable as you might think. One day they decided to return to his hometown, Bandung, and here she is, with her own salon.

Then just to make it an even smaller world, as I was coming into the shampooing area of the salon, another woman calls my name. I look around and there is Tine, the Indonesian agent who has shown me an apartment I hope to rent — she’s having her hair done too! This is a city of 2 million residents, but it didn’t seem all that big today.

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