Saturday, February 28, 2009

Indonesia tales

A lot has happened since I scribbled something on my blog. Oil prices dropped down from 150$ to ~35$ a barrel, USA got a new President, the world slipped into probably its worst recession ever, Merril Lynch and Lehman Brothers went kaput, our PM got a surgery done, Satyam created a flutter in the entire IT industry, slumdog became the underdog at the oscars, and of course, on top of all newsboards these days is the massive bailouts being planned across the globe. Even the newspapers bear a completely changed look these days. Flip through any financial newspaper six months ago and one would find news about companies making record profits and having massive expansion plans, stocks markets going at record highs and B-schools setting new records in placement. Turn to today, the newspapers are agong with companies making record losses, every corporation is talking about layoffs and cost cutting, while there are many others filing for bankruptcy.

 Coming to the main theme of this post-I am taking a shot at an altogether different category of "current affairs" this time. Read on to find out: 
 The past few months also have had quite interesting developments on my personal front as well. I have been out of India for almost six months now, save the once-in-a-while weekend or extended weekend trips to India. This is the first time I have been away for so long and initially I was quite excited to be working out of India. Overall it has been quite an overwhelming experience, working across boundaries, aquanting with different cultures, experimenting with cuisine and exploring several places where I probably would never visit again in my life. I will never forget hopping onto a ferry along with our Innova after a gruelling 10-hour drive and then driving further for ~2 hours through dense forests to this place called Kotabaru where probably I was the first foreigner to visit the place ever. Another one was to a place called Tanjung Uban where I had to step into a motorboat and traverse into the sea, we had no life jackets and I didn't know how to swim! Finally, having reached that place, someone informed the local police that there was some foreigner moving around in the town. The next day, a policeman and an immigration guy landed up in my client's office and asked for my passport. They took it away for verification and gave it back after 3 hours! Those were probably the scariest 3 hours of my life! If that was not enough, we were taken out for lunch at a Padang restaurant and I could not eat anything. I survived on fried and instant noodles for four days! And how can I forget the Padang food-standard serving is at least 20 dishes on the table-all served at once and the guys charge you only for what you eat. Rest is served to the next customer. Doesn't sound hygenic but you can't be a chooser in the middle of nowhere! What added flavor to all these adventures have been the airlines in indonesia. My key takeaway-never ask them for a seat preference-you will get the worst seat available on the plane. I had to travel in economy in domestic flights a few times and whenever I asked for an emergency row seat, I was dispatched to the last row! But there were a couple of instances when I got it (pulling my language assistant for talking to the airline staff helped!). So on those days, even though I was supposed to be the guy to open the emergency exit door in case of an emergency, the air hostesses would come, give their instructions in Bahasa (Indonesian language) without even bothering to ask me if I understood even a word of it, and go away! No wonder Indonesian airlines have a poor safety track record and are not allowed to fly anywhere to Europe! And of course, every flight in Indonesia comes with complementary weather turbulences where you can be almost blown off your seat, and landings when you feel as if the aircraft is going to turn turtle at the drop of a hat!
 People in Indonesia are quite friendly in striking up a conversation and whenever I meet someone here, this is the typical first conversation I end up having most of the time:
Q: Vivek, are you married?
A: No
Q: Oh, so then you must be having a girlfriend!! Is she from India?
A: I don't have a girlfriend. I am happily single (P.S. The stress on "happily" is deliberate and straight from the heart)
Q: How is this possible?(looking at me, shocked!) I don't believe this (scratching his/her head)!! How can you be not married and not even have a girlfriend (bewildered look)? 
A: Yes, it's true, you have a living example in front of you, and it's purely by choice! (smiling as usual)

 A related interesting development has been the speed at which all my ex-classmates and friends are walking down the isle. On an average, I am receiving at least one wedding invitation every week (there are three for next week though, all in the same city). This is really making me think if it is the time for me to get cruxified as well. I always thought I had plenty of time on my hands to think about it. (I still believe the same!) But with so many wedding invitations being poured in, I am being forced to think whether I've grown old enough to bite the bullet! I talked to one of my friends today-he just got his 3-year old daughter enrolled in school. Gosh!! 
 I also realized I am spending a lot more time on the social networking sites these days, though I blame it on the loneliness here in Indonesia-an alien country with nothing to do but work, and a limited circle of people to talk to, or hang out with. Thankfully, I am still not at the desperate extent of flipping through profiles of pretty faces on orkut/facebook/myspace and dropping messages like "hi, can we be friends", etc.!! Hope that doesn't happen as well!

 This was my first attempt at going beyond current affairs, though my initial intent was different. Hope you liked reading. Do pour in your suggestions. Your inputs on topics for fresh posts will be highly welcome. I am anyways looking for some alternative careers in these times of recession, your inputs on whether I can make it as a professional blogger on not will be highly welcome.

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