59: In Search of the Lost Mail

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

*****

My new apartment was supposed to have wifi, but the signal was really weak, so I plugged in the ethernet cable, opened up Firefox on my laptop and waited… and waited… and waited… It was ridiculously slow; I mean it was practically useless.

I spent almost an hour waiting to get the Royal Mail website to load, put in my tracking number to track my letter, which was at ‘kantor pos’ in Tajung Duren, then for Google Translate to tell me that ‘kantor pos’ is actually the word for post office in Bahasa, then to do a search for the place, which seemed to be very close. With all that done, I was finally good to go.

I used the Google navigator on my phone to get the location of the kantor pos, which seemed to be in the middle of a space behind the Taman Anggrek mall, so I went on to the street to get an ojek driver to take me there. I showed the driver the location on my phone and he pointed to the Taman Anggrek mall. Then I remembered, I had already been to a mail carrier company in there the week before to ask them if they had received anything for me from Royal Mail, which they hadn’t. So I explained to the ojek driver as best I could that I was looking for a “kantor pos” to collect a letter from England. Fortunately, he knew a little English and seemed to know where to go. He gave me the spare helmet that all ojek drivers have for their customers. I reluctantly pulled the sweaty headgear over my head. I fumbled with the knotted chinstrap for a while before the driver adjusted and fastened it for me. I then got on the back of his bike and we headed toward Tanjung Duren.

After going through the maze of little streets in Tanjung Duren we soon pulled up outside a little building that was raised off the ground and had wooden steps leading up to its doorway. The driver stopped, took off his helmet and, with a big smile, pointed to the building; “Kantor pos”, he said.

I gratefully removed my sweaty helmet and got off his bike. He then led me up the little wooden stairs and into the building. He said something to the two male clerks behind the front desk – I assume he was explaining who I was and what I wanted. Still smiling, he asked me for 10,000 IDR for the journey. I paid him, gave him his helmet and he left me with the clerks in the post office.

The Tanjung Duren post office was like the rest of Tanjung Duren, shabby. It was very hot inside and there was no air-conditioning to cool the place down, just a little desk fan that was directed toward the clerks; any loose paper or documents were impaled on stick bill forks or under paper weights. Behind the clerks were piles of packages and letters that were stacked up in what to my untrained eye seemed like no kind of order. Shabby, shoddy and rag-tag as it was, the two clerks, despite not understanding a word of English, were friendly and helpful. In that respect, it was superior to any similar such set up you might find in London.

Normally, my Google Translate app would have given me the basics to communicate my needs to these men, but it was having a timely I’m-not-working-now-hahahaha moment, as it was prone to do at times of need. So again, para-linguistics was all I had, and it was all I needed. When I showed them the tracking number for my letter that I’d typed into my phone, they seemed to know exactly what I was looking for and where I could find it. They entered into a discussion between themselves, typed some details into an ancient computer whilst I stood there with my fingers crossed. However, they weren’t going into a back area to get anything and they weren’t looking amongst the piles of letters and parcels that were strewn around the room. But then again, they weren’t shaking their heads, stroking their chins and looking confused either. This meant that my letter was definitely somewhere, just not there, but they knew where, because one of the men was drawing a map and writing something in Bahasa on a piece of paper. He then said something, not a word of which I could interpret yet I fully understood. He was telling me that my parcel was not at their post office but at a depot of some sort that was only a short distance away. He came from behind the counter and took me outside. He called a very, very old man over, they exchanged words, the old man went off and got two helmets and called me over to his moped. It was all very clear. This old man was going to take me to the depot on the direction of the post office clerk. I was actually enjoying this little adventure. I felt like Indiana Jones in search of the Holy Mail.

I thanked the post office clerk, got on the back of the old man’s moped and we rattled off through the maze of streets and canals and out of Tanjung Duren and onto a large road that I recognised as Daan Mogot.

58: Debt Recovery

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

*****

With everything unpacked and put away, the next thing on the day’s agenda was to track a letter from home that my daughter had sent to me. It was a form I needed to fill in to get the wages from my last job.

Before leaving the UK I was the English Project Manager at a language centre that delivered courses preparing students for citizenship applications. There had been a documentary on television that had exposed dozens of colleges and language testing centres across the country that had been cheating the examination system. As a result, the Home Office had made new legislation that meant thousands of non-native British citizens had to also reapply for their citizenship. The new legislation also required applicants to pass an ESOL E3 level speaking test. The directors of the centre, Mr. and Mrs. Mustafa, had shrewdly decided to capitalise on this new market and I was employed to coordinate the project. My job was to develop a scheme of work and lesson plans for the language courses and a preparation course for the citizenship test. As the only qualified teacher in the centre, I was also responsible for assessing the students, delivering the lessons and conducting the exam.

I had never really felt comfortable with the way things were set up at the MIC Citizenship and ESOL Centre, it just felt a little off. Mrs. Mustafa, who was the director of the school, had a contrived air of pretension about her. She was well-spoken, clearly well-educated and she conducted herself in a very dignified manner. She always wore traditional Indian dress and seemed to command a great deal of respect from the Asian community that the centre predominantly served. But despite seldom being in the centre, she liked to micro-manage, which was a little irritating. She would come in for a “brief meeting” to discuss how the project was developing, then tell me what she wanted to do. If I questioned or queried anything, her response was a passive-aggressive indignation, perceiving me to be argumentative.

I never saw Mr. Mustafa who owned the school, but I knew he also had another larger language school that had been running for some time. But irony of ironies, this larger school was itself investigated in relation to its examination and assessment practices. The outcome of this investigation led to the school losing its examination status and being forced to close. As a result, Mr. Mustafa put the companies into liquidation, which meant that I didn’t get paid my final wage. However, as I was now one of their many creditors, when the receivers set about administrating the liquidation process, I had been contacted so that they could recover the money owed to me. All I had to do was complete the relevant form that had been sent to my home address. My daughter had collected this letter and posted it to my address at Centro City Apartments. But that had been about three weeks ago and I still hadn’t received it. Overseas mail isn’t sent by boat anymore so I knew it must be somewhere in Jakarta, and I needed that money.

57: Hello Mediterania Gardens

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

Medi 2 pool 8 2015-03-18

 

Opening the door and stepping into my new place felt great. It wasn’t big or extravagantly decorated, but it was cosy. Ok, the kitchen was little more than a 70’s looking kitchenette with a double gas hob burner that was supplied by a canister in the cupboard underneath, but from what I had seen, that was pretty standard in Jakarta. Nevertheless, the sofa was modern, there was a modern LCD TV that actually worked, and the décor was uniformly simple, the only flourish being an abstract Matisse-esque tree pattern that had been printed on the wall behind the TV. But even that, with its colour palette of browns and greens was pleasantly understated and complimentary to the rest of the place.

My room, which was the large room with the king size bed, had a large fitted wardrobe on the back wall with plenty of space for all my stuff. There was a bedside cabinet and a little desk beside the window in the corner. It was pretty nice. Of course, compared to my own flat back home it was pretty shit, but it’s the simple pleasures you learn to enjoy again when you are stripped of options. Right now, it was about 30-plus degrees in Jakarta and the sun was shining like it did every day. No amount of home décor in grimy grey Manchester could substitute that. Not to mention the fact that I had access to a lavish pool area with a 25-metre pool and a 50-meter pool, replete with outdoor jacuzzi. You can’t get that kind of luxury in Ikea.

Medi 2 pool 2 2015-03-18 16-56-00

After unpacking my stuff, I spent a moment taking in my 29th floor view, which when you subtract the 13th floor and all the floors with fours is actually the 25th floor; it wasn’t bad.

Medi 2 pool 1 2015-03-18

At the base of the atrium created by Mediterania blocks D, E and F, I had my pools. There was no tower block to the west so, just across a road beyond some tennis courts and a school that was beside the apartment complex, the surrounding district of Tanjung Duren filled the open-ended space. The roofs and walls of the houses cramped into the area created a fractured mosaic pattern of browns, greens, ochres and off-whites just beneath a hazy layer of blue-grey Jakarta smog. ‘This is not bad at all’, I thought to myself.

Medi 2 Tanjung Duren view 2014-09-30