74: Destiny Can Go F**k Itself

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


I stopped off at the local Indomaret and picked up a couple of bottles of Anker beer before I headed back up to the apartment. Simon was still at home when I got in so I opened both the beers and gave him one and told him all about my meeting with Jeff. It was pretty funny in retrospect and we both had a bit of a laugh about it, but when I told him I wasn’t going to do any more money drops for him he wasn’t so amused. Nevertheless, as was typical with Simon, he was quite calm and pragmatic about it and suggested that I could maybe meet with Jeff’s wife Evi instead. This seemed like a pretty good idea. I didn’t particularly mind helping him out if there was no stress involved, and the couple of times I had met with Evi she was always easy going and pleasant, like pretty much all of the Indonesians I had met. I couldn’t imagine her being awkward with me in the way Jeff had been. It also dawned on me that Jeff was possibly trying a bit of psychological chess. Perhaps he thought that by implying that I was a being some kind of little bitch for Simon, it would pique my ego and I would stop doing his money drops, forcing Simon to do it himself. Or perhaps I was just overthinking things, something I’m prone to do. Either way I agreed. Keeping Simon onside was in my best interests. Despite his faults he was still one of only two ‘friends’ I had in Jakarta and everyone needs friends. Especially when they’re miles from home.

Since I had moved in with Simon, we had rarely stayed up late, drank a beer and had a chat in the way I expected flatmates would do. I found this a bit odd as when we had been out our conversations had flowed freely. Perhaps he had a different head for different occasions. People can be like that. Also, I didn’t start work until two in the afternoon so going to bed late wasn’t a problem for me. Simon was usually out by 10.00 in the morning so he would be in bed by midnight most nights. Since I usually didn’t finish until 9.30 at night we tended to be out of sync, which kind of worked for both of us because it meant that he got at least an hour with the fan blowing into his room and was usually asleep before I got into bed and turned it off. But that night I let the fan run longer than usual as, despite sharing my bed most nights with that bitch Insomnia and not falling asleep for two or three hours, I wanted to have a little thinking time. That night the idea of destiny shared the bed with us.

Some people have a great belief in destiny, but I have my doubts. Mainly, because whilst most of the destiny adherers see it in a positive light, the other side of that coin isn’t always a positive thing.

Take Boabdil “the Unlucky” for example. He was the last of the Moorish kings of Spain to occupy the Andalucian throne in the stronghold of the magnificent Alhambra in Granada. From his birth, the Moor soothsayers prophesised that Boabdil’s reign would mark the end of the Moor’s 700-year rule in Andalucia, and they were proved right. Everything this guy did was fated to lead to the ultimate end of the Islamic empire’s reign in Spain. So what if some people are destined to be failures from the moment they take their first breath? And what if those people who are unfortunate enough to have this destiny forced upon them, never having a chance no matter how hard they try – what if they decide that they are going to fight their destiny head on and refuse to lose? Is it a futile battle? Do you just lay down and die? Or do you suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and take arms against a sea of troubles and, in opposing, end them? Is it possible? Can you fight fate? Why was I thinking this? Well, it wasn’t the first time I had ruminated on this idea.

I’ve come from what is romantically termed ‘humble beginnings’ and from a very early age I had decided that I was going to make my own destiny; I was going to be the difference. Yet it seemed, despite putting the work and effort in, everything that I did ended in failure. It’s been pretty depressing. Yet here I was, in my third profession, having made a bold move to force a paradigm change in my life, but still hitting brick wall after brick wall; how the fuck could I manage to take a job eight thousand miles away from my place of birth, yet within a month find myself embroiled in some drama, albeit relatively trivial, but drama nonetheless?

You could argue it is my choice of friends, but what other choices had presented themselves since I had been in Jakarta? None.

You could argue that it is my combative personality, but combative personalities have helped many successful men and women succeed. And besides, I hadn’t done anything particularly confrontational since I had been in Jakarta. Yet within less than a month, a had gone on what was a highly enjoyable night out and it had turned into the catalyst for a drama that was not of my doing!

Fuck you destiny. Fuck you and the grubby little boat you sailed in on. I’m going to take my resilience and shove it up your tight little party pooping arse.


73: The Drop

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


After the unfortunate incident between Jeff and Simon, I had agreed to be a go-between so that they could at least resolve the monetary aspect of their issue. Simon had agreed to compensate Jeff for the loss of his physical belongings to the tune of 16,000,000 IDR, but the loss of all those photographic memories of his wedding and his only child growing up could never be compensated. Nor could Simon’s abuse of his trust.

I thought I was helping by offering to meet Jeff on Simon’s behalf to hand over his money, but perhaps it would have been better if I had made him man-up and do it himself. Jeff, understandably, still harboured a fair amount of resentment toward his ex-lodger, which was fair enough. But because he had never got the opportunity to see Simon again after what had happened, he never really got closure and I think he had let his resentments stew. So when I met with him he decided he was going to direct that resentment toward me. Fuck that.

Simon could only withdraw a certain amount of money at one time from his bank’s cash machines so he was paying Jeff in instalments. I met with Jeff at a bar in noisy Tribeca gardens to pay him one of those instalments on Simon’s behalf. When I arrived, he was lounging in a booth in one of the bars looking dour and pissed off. I was a little bit later than was arranged so that was the first thing he started on about. This unemployed man of leisure was not happy that I had kept him waiting. I apologised but he continued to ramble on anyway. I ignored it. Then, as he was counting his money, he started with his digs.

“So you’re Simon’s errand boy now?” was his first swipe. I parried, not wanting to get into a verbal scuffle, but he continued; “How can you trust someone like Simon?” “Do you do everything for him now?” “How is your cosy little apartment together?” “How can you trust this man? Don’t you have any integrity?” – Now he was starting to get on my fucking nerves, so I told him…

“Look Jeff, you were the one who let a stranger into your home – your family home – without taking any kind of security or even a copy of his passport for ID. You let this stranger into your home with your wife and child when you had another apartment that was free. Why would you do that? Was it simply because you were thinking about the money? Did you put money before your own flesh and blood Jeff? Yet you’re talking to me about ‘trust’ and ‘integrity’!” He had no reply, he just babbled some nonsense about having trust and faith in all people; “Yes, and where did that get you?”, I said. I felt a little bit bad poking at what I knew would be a raw nerve, but what was I supposed to do? He then changed the subject.

“Where is the rest of the money?”, he said.

Simon had given me 4,000,000 IDR to pass on to him. I had counted it twice after he gave it to me to make sure that it was all there, and it was. I knew it was. Yet Jeff had counted it twice in front of me and somehow came up 100,000 short. I took it back off him and counted it again and sure enough it was all there; the guy was just being an arsehole.

“It’s all there Jeff. Count it again.”

He counted it again as I watched and it was all as it should be.

“Right then, that’s us done. I’m gonna get back”, I said and turned to leave, but he couldn’t resist one last dig.

“It’s a good thing that you trust him so much. I hope your new best friend doesn’t fuck you like he fucked me.”

I’d had enough of his shit. “First of all” I said, “He’s not my ‘best friend’, I’ve known him less time than you have, and only an idiot would trust someone they’ve only known for five minutes. Secondly, I am not worried about him fucking me over Jeff, because I’m pretty certain he’s aware that if he does I’ll fuck him right back a lot harder than you did”, I told him. “If I were you and he had brought some random girl into my house who robbed my shit, I would have made damn sure he paid for it. And I think he knows that.”

I must have raised my voice and looked a little bit pissed off at this point as the security guard came over and asked us to take it easy. Jeff didn’t have much more to say either, but I did.

“Look Jeff, just because you feel bad about letting a stranger into your house and putting money before the safety of your family, don’t take it out on me. I’m just trying to help you two resolve the situation. I suggest the next time you let people stay in your home that you take as much time taking a copy of their ID as you do their money. You should also be thankful that Simon didn’t turn out to be some crazy lunatic because your mistake could have turned out a lot worse.” At that, I turned and left him to marinate on what I had said. I also decided that I wasn’t going to be doing any more money drop-offs for Simon.

72. The Call

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


I am not a religious person. Although I know it is polite to follow a declaration of this kind with something like; ‘Oh, but I respect other people’s religious beliefs’ – I actually don’t anymore. I simply have no time for the arcane, irrational, rituals and ceremonies and sanctimonious doctrines that religious gangs obsess and argue over.

I am aware this is an antagonistic and divisive attitude, but quite frankly, I don’t really care. Unlike most people’s indoctrination of religious allegiance, I haven’t arrived at my attitude by virtue of the random nature of universal chance placing me in a particular cultural or geographical position at birth; that lottery branded me a catholic. I was raised a catholic and spent my early years practicing that faith. No, it is after many years of soul searching, personal exploration and theological enquiry done in my desire to try to understand the world and our place in it and how it connects with the vagaries of these various forms of social control that I have come to develop my attitude. Now, I simply don’t care for religious institutions. However, I am not an atheist. And I am certainly no believer in a selfish ‘dog eat dog’ society based on the cruel, neo-liberal capitalist ideals of Milton Friedman disciples. We really should have moved on from the ‘survival of the fittest’ ideology. That way leads to tyranny. No, I firmly believe in the concept of a God, I just don’t have the affront and arrogance to believe that I or anyone else have the monopoly on what that universal concept is.

I consider myself a spiritual believer, but I simply don’t believe that wearing a specific hat, collar or gown, or having a specific array of bodily hair and dietary preferences makes you a better person or closer to ‘God’. The Christians state, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’; the Buddhists state, ‘Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would not find hurtful.’; Judaism – ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man’; Hinduism – ‘do naught to others if done to thee would cause thee pain.’; Islam – ‘No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.’; Sikhism – ‘No one is an enemy and no one is a stranger. I get along with everyone.’ These are the simple tenets I take from religion, because they make sense and they engender a fair, peaceful, loving, free society where everyone is treated equally. So, it is with this lengthy preamble by way of explanation of my position on religion that I introduce my perspective on the call to prayer.

If you have been to an Islamic country, you will be aware that the call to prayer rings out from all the mosques five times a day. I have heard this call in Morocco, Egypt and England, and it has been a quite melodic and pleasant sound. This is not the case if you are living within close proximity to the mosques in the Tanjung Duren area of West Jakarta. Here the call is an obnoxiously imposing, caterwaul of misery. It lasts an eternity and is blasted at full strength from a network of minarets as far as the ears can hear.

I understand that the rhythmical sounds of song and melody resonate with the human spirit, and I understand that places of worship use this musical inspiration to invoke a deeper spiritual connection. But the agonising wailing that emits from the mosques around Tanjung Duren sounds like the end of the world is coming. It’s frightening and creepy in the same manner of Gregorian chanting. The multitude of wailing verses coming from the different mosques overlap and compete like a religious soundclash of horror and penetrate the atmosphere like a call of doom and despair. I respect the fact that I am living amongst the largest Muslim community in South East Asia, but do we ALL really need to have this noise thrust upon us five times a day? It’s the 21st century and Lord knows that everyone in Jakarta has a mobile phone – can’t they text or Whatsapp the damn thing? It’s a bit intrusive and inconsiderate to impose this hideous orchestra of agonised devotion upon people when they’re trying to sleep, work or otherwise enjoy life.

It was early September, which marks the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Adha. Four days of celebration involving sacrifices of sheep and serious wailing. Living in Mallville, the contrast between this fervent adulation of ancient religious faith and the relentless commercial traffic of modern commerce taking place in and around the consumer temples of Mall Taman Angrek and Central Park was a bit bizarre. To be honest, my whole expat life, as short as it had been, was a bit bizarre.