Indonesia, Round 2

Well, in case you weren’t aware from the previous couple posts, I went to Indonesia again for work for what was supposed to be 2 weeks on site. I won’t re-hash the issues with the flights; you can read it below….

Other than getting in a round of golf the first Sunday I was in Soroako, the rest of the time there was pretty uneventful. I have highlighted the exciting events below:

My co-worker that I was traveling with had scheduled his arranged marriage to coincide with our trip, so I got to go to an Indonesian wedding reception. He had kept it quite around the office and I didn’t even find out until we were in Bali. Quite a surprise! All I can say is I am glad our wedding decorations were not selected by an Indonesian 😉 Basically, they line a walkway with all the family members, have the wedding party up on a stage decorated with bright colors and other decor, with food lining the exit aisle. So you have this huge receiving line with local food at the end. I guess if you know all the people there you might work up an appetite by the time you get to the end of the line. I didn’t stick around for the dancing, but he said that it went on for a few hours. I think he even left before the dancing ended….Now he gets to deal with all the Visa requirements to get her back to the US.

The only other interesting thing that happened in Soroako was the phone call I got one night before leaving the office. The day before, I had gone to exchange some US dollars at the local bank. I exchanged $200 USD (ten $20 bills) without problems. I was expecting they would not accept some of the bills as they were not the new design and that seems to always be an issue. However, I left with over $1.8M Rupiah, a full exchange of my $200 USD. That evening before leaving work, we got a call at our site office asking for me. It was the bank. Somehow, they had tracked me down and gotten our site office number, which had not been occupied for about the last 6 months. I suppose they did quite a bit of calling around to get in touch with me. They told me that four of my $20 bills were invalid. INVALID???? They sure do spend nicely here and in Canada and Mexico!!! They needed me to exchange the $80 USD back because they cannot accept bills older than 2003 series! Perhaps US banks won’t buy them back from Indonesia in fear of counterfeits. Either way, they needed them back. I tried telling them I already spent the money I exchanged, but I ‘m sure they know how hard it is to spend $1.8M Rupiah in one day, so they weren’t buying it. I went back the next day and re-exchanged the money. Since the bank’s ATM would not let me take a withdrawal on my credit card, I had to do a withdrawal on my bank card to replace this money. I really didn’t want to do this since the last time I used the ATMandiri in Soroako, I had a bunch of weird charges on my credit card when I returned. I surely didn’t want that on my actual bank account….crap! I should check my bank account 😉

While I was there, my company was awarded another project for a plant on the same island. Since I was already only about 200 miles away (straight line distance…this will be important later), it made sense for me to travel down there, extend my trip by 1 week, and do the initial site visit. It was decided we would hire a driver to pick up me and another co-worker (Indonesian and bi-lingual…this too will be important later) in Soroako and drive to the other plant. So, a 200 mile drive doesn’t sound that bad, eh? Well, like I said before, it is 200 miles straight line distance…not actual miles. It takes 9 HOURS to drive from Soroako to Kolaka!!! OK, no problem. The roads around Soroako are nice roads. Surely this must be how all the major roads/highways are. HA! It was 9 hours of winding up and down mountains on roads, broken roads, and demolished roads that are about the width of 1 lane in North America, all the while dodging people that don’t have sense enough to stay out of the road or even walk facing traffic, dodging animals (cows, horses, chickens, and dogs), dodging other passenger cars/trucks, and dodging buses and freight trucks. So we left Soroako at 7:30 am, stopped for lunch (fried chicken, soup and rice…see the post below) and a couple times to stretch our legs, and finally arrived in Kolaka at 4:30 pm. Our driver only spoke Bahasa (Indonesian), so for 9 hours, I listened to the driver, his brother, and my co-worker speak in a language that I only know about 10-20 words. When I wasn’t trying to figure out what they were talking about, they had a cassette tape playing of some popular American music they thought I might like to listen to. It’s funny actually. One of the other long road trips I have been on, I listened to the same music for an extended period of time. Now, I know some of you may like her music, but about an hour is all I can really stand of SHANIA TWAIN!!!

The hotel we stayed at in Kolaka was decent…meaning it had a proper shower and a western style toilet. The included breakfast consisted of fried rice and…well, that’s it. Fried rice. The room was about 40′ x 40’ with the bed and TV (with satellite thankfully) in opposite corners. Surprisingly, the remote and the volume had enough range. The seafood in Kolaka was pretty good. Fresh fish, squid, and lobster, all for about $3-$5 USD. The lobster was actually a bit more expensive. It was $50 for 4.5 pounds of live lobster, still a bargain!

In Soroako, there are lots of expats on site from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, so English is spoken by many, even the locals. In Kolaka, there are no expats, so VERY little English is spoken. So basically for a week, the only communication I had was with my 1 co-worker who speaks some English. Needless to say, I was very pleased to get into Jakarta and Hong Kong where English is more widely spoken. It almost sounded like a foreign language by then;)

So after spending 4 days or so in Kolaka, the driver took us to Kendari so I could catch my flight back to Makassar to start my journey home. This drive had much better roads, but we had about an hour of driving in the dark, which is always scary there. On our way there, we stopped at this area that had about 20 tents lining the road. Apparently, all of them sell steamed corn. Seems a bit like market saturation, but what do I know…I’m the foreigner. Well they bring you a bucket of sweet (yellow) corn and a bucket of white corn. You eat what you want, throw the shucks and cobs into another bucket, and pay for what you ate. Pretty tasty, but white corn on the cob is not nearly as good! We finished the drive to Kendari and I checked in at my hotel. Since Kendari is the capital of Southeast Sulawesi, the accommodations are a bit better. We hit up another seafood place for my last night and went back to the hotel since my flight was at 6:45 am the next day. The poor driver and my coworker had to start their 3-4 hour drive back to Kolaka at almost 10pm…uggghhh!!!

So began the long trip back home. A 45 minute flight to Makassar, a 2 hour flight to Jakarta, a 4 hour flight to Hong Kong, 1 night in Kong Kong, a 14 hour flight to LA, and a 4 hour flight back to Dallas. Flights went pretty well until I got to LA and got back to American Airlines. International carriers have much better accommodations for their customers, especially when traveling business class…short lines, free entry to lounges, etc. The security line in LA was pretty crowded and the flight was delayed more than an hour with no place to wait other than a crowded gate. After such a long trip home, nothing is more annoying than a delay on your last leg of the trip.

Well, that is all I can think of for now. I have pictures posted in the gallery, so feel free to browse.

Oh yeah, while I was in Hong Kong and headed back to the hotel to check out after a morning of walking around Kowloon, I stepped off the escalator wrong and got this shooting pain in my foot. So far it still hasn’t gone away. The doctor says it is a mid-foot sprain and the only treatment is ice, supportive shoes, and Aleve. This sucks! I guess it was from wearing my el cheapo flip-flops for the whole trip, aside from when I was working, and walking a few miles around Kowloon the morning it happened…also in my el cheapo flip-flops. I wonder if my nice, expensive Reef flip-flops (you know, the ones with the bottle opener on the bottom) would have had the same effect.

– peeps

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