Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.
I woke up with that familiar but unwelcome hangover feeling. The clothes I had worn the night before were scattered around my bed and something had crept into my mouth in the middle of the night and taken a dry shit. When I was younger I had never suffered from hangovers. Had I experienced that otherworldly please-let-me-out-of-my-body feeling a hangover brings, along with the additional symptoms of shit-in-dry-mouth and an overall feeling like you have been embalmed alive, I probably would have stopped drinking altogether and saved a fortune in the process. But hey, it’s pointless me crying over spilt alcohol, I am now, true to my Irish heritage, an established drinker.
I dragged myself out of bed a little before noon. As I got up and made my way to the toilet I almost tripped over a bundle of denim. I must have scraped my jeans off with my toes whilst lying prostrate on my mattress in drunken semi-conciousness when I had got in. After relieving my bladder, my thoughts immediately turned to the water in the fridge and alleviating my dehydration. The micro ants that I was involuntarily sharing my room with were foraging for micro scraps of food on the kitchenette surface. I massacred them with a few swipes of a damp cloth before gulping down a bottle of water and eating an apple and a yoghurt for breakfast. Not really a sufficiently filling and nutricious start to the day, but that was all I had in.
There would be no swimming that morning, just groaning and regret. Regret that I had inflicted the dehydration and mild brain damage that is drunkeness upon myself at my own expense. I had no thoughts of Simon and his pick-up, or the robbing taxi driver; I wasn’t even thinking of Andida, the pretty young woman with the braces who gave me her phone number. No, none of that; I was preoccupied with my own self pity. I was the walking wounded and I only had a couple of hours before I had to walk into work and there was no way of avoiding it.
The sweltering heat and sweaty humidity of my journey to Taman Anggrek went someway to rebooting my system, but I was still feeling pretty rotten as I entered the extreme air conditioned cool of the mall. I took the escalators purely because continual motion was preferable to waiting for a lift. I also wanted something sweet to go with the coffee I was going to have as soon as I got into the EF school and there was a Bread Talk on the ground floor. Bread Talk is a very decent chain of bakeries found in all the big malls in Jakarta and they do a great chocolate muffin. So I grabbed a chocolate muffin and took the moving stairs up to the third floor. There I was greeted by the corridor of noise that leads to the EF school.
The now familiar sound of yapping dogs, bleeping and zapping robots, minions and other mechanical toys outside the toy shop was not pleasant. The loud techno music and the competing teams of sales reps shrieking offers at passers by outside the phone shops that faced each other was even worse. There is a pretty young girl who is part of the mobile phone shop mob who always catches my eye. She never looks enthusiastic about her job, but nevertheless, she always smiles at me when I pass and I always smile back. But this afternoon I didn’t even look at her. Eyes down and focussed on the coffee awaiting me, I steadily strode into the school and greeted Rudi, Julie and Linda who were busily surfing the net and playing Clan of Clans on their phones at the reception. I greeted them all with a lively “Selamat pagi” and a big smile, both performed with flawless sincerity. Professor X himself wouldn´t have known how fucked I was right at that moment.
Only the ‘Office Boy’, who is actually a grown man called Firman, was in at that time. Classes don’t start until 2pm and it was still only just before one. The only other student I noticed was quietly working on a tablet in one of the booths, but I didn’t make eye contact. I just headed straight for the coffee machine and hoped that it actually worked for me this time. It was an over complicated contraption that always seemed to be out of coffee beans or milk or water, or something was wrong with it whenever I used it. Fortunately it was fully loaded and working fine this morning. So with coffee and cake I walked into the teacher’s room and logged into my computer to prepare for my classes. Mercifully I only had two sessions before my first break, and I had taught both the lessons before. Easy.
I supped on my coffee and munched on my muffin and gradually started to feel human again. As I was reading through the lesson plan notes, I received a text message from an unknown number. It was Belgian Jeff and his message was a little bit cryptic:
‘Hello its jeff. I am using Evi’s phone. Have you been in contact with Simon today?’
I’m good at reading between the lines and those few words did not sound good.