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.

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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.

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2 thoughts on “59: In Search of the Lost Mail

  1. Sounds like me, trying without Hebrew to pay my electric bill. In those days, you didn’t mail bills. You went to wherever you got the bill, in this case the electric company and stood on line to pay them. I did that. It was the wrong building. Eventually, someone walked me to the OTHER one. I wasn’t sure about the money, either, so I just handed it over and someone took some and gave me the rest. Ah, those were the days! There was no wifi yet, you see. I’m not sure wifi improved it, either.

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