75: A Reluctant Errand Boy

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


“It’s all about the holidays”, Claire had told me. “The best thing about living in Jakarta is that you’re always only an hour or two away from somewhere beautiful”, she’d said. Despite having a nice ring to it, I can’t see the Jakarta tourist board using that line anytime soon.

It was a Sunday, the day before my little holiday break in Kalimantan with Claire and her friends.

Sunday is a short working day at the EF school so I was out by around six o’clock. However, I still had to have dinner, pack my bag and get in touch with Claire to clarify some changes with the return flights.

The return flight from Kalimantan was with a company called Kalstar Airways and the flight for Claire and her group had been moved forward. Although I had booked my flight separately, I assumed I had booked the same flight as they had so I needed to know if my flight was also affected. Claire’s travel agent had informed her, but neither the airline nor my travel agent at Dwidaya had told me anything. I thought that this perhaps meant that the flights were different. I mean if they were the same flights then surely I would have been notified about the changes too. This being Indonesia, I didn’t want to take anything for granted so I decided to go to the travel agent after work to ask them directly. The outgoing flight was scheduled for 9.15 in the morning and I wanted to have a relaxing day to organise myself before having an early night.

Simon was having a nice day out with his girlfriend at Dreamland, the theme park in Ancol, in the north of Jakarta. Yet despite being busy, he managed to find some time in the afternoon to send me a text message with explicit instructions to contact Jeff’s wife Evi and arrange to meet her to hand over another instalment of his debt. Knowing Simon as I now know him, I knew he didn’t mean to come across as his message implied – as a boss giving his subordinate orders – so I bit my figurative tongue and replied, in plain tones, reminding him that I was going away the following day and I wouldn’t have time to do his money drop. He was fine with this, which was very understanding of him.

I didn’t have many details about the Kalimantan trip. I would be spending a couple of days on a boat floating up a river through the Borneo jungle with a bunch of people I had never met before, food and drink included; that was it. Claire had paid my deposit for the trip and I had paid for my flights. She had told me that we were being met by the tour guides at the airport in Kalimantan to start the tour so I wanted to be well rested, fresh and prepared to hit the floor running when I arrived. With the flight leaving at 9.15 I would have to arrive around two hours before. The journey time to the airport was an expected but not assured half-hour. I figured a 6.30 alarm would give me enough time for a shower and a fruit salad breakfast before leaving. But I needed an early night.

Simon and his girlfriend had returned from their day out and were in the apartment when I got in, but I wasn’t in the mood for making small talk. I was still a little bit annoyed at the cheek of this guy in assuming that he could give me instructions via SMS for delivering his debts whilst he was having a nice day out. Checking my flight details with the travel agent gave me a polite excuse for getting away from him for half an hour.

Dwidaya Travel wasn’t open when I got there and when I tried the phone numbers on the travel paperwork nobody was answering. I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime so I decided to go to Java Kitchen to get some dinner to take back to the apartment. Unfortunately, they didn’t have anything left that I wanted to eat.

As I walked through the mall back toward my apartment, I was trying not to acknowledge that I was hungry and a little bit pissed off at having wasted the last half hour accomplishing nothing but getting a sweat. I then noticed my phone was vibrating in my pocket; it was Jeff’s wife, Evi. I answered.

“Hello Sir… Mr Jeff… I just got email from Simon… he say you can meet me in the lobby…”

I couldn’t fully hear what she was saying between the noise of the mall and the bad reception, but I heard enough. After a brief but fractured communique with Evi, I established that what she was telling me was that Simon had just sent her an email to say that I was going to meet her between nine and ten in the lobby of Mediterania Gardens 2 that night to give her some money.