Posts Tagged ‘work’

Unemployed before, now Unemployable

August 23, 2010

These two were in the news a couple of years ago.  According to the story, a village chief (kepala desa) received an sms from someone claiming to be a government officer and promising jobs for the two if they tattooed their faces with a ‘dragon’ pattern. 

All three of them claim to have been hypnotised by the sender of the sms and went along with the idea.  You can see the results above.  It must be pretty strong magic to convince two people to do such a mad thing.  Or it shows what lengths people will go to for the promise of an exciting job.  I could have told them from personal experience, government jobs aren’t worth it!

Anyhow, I suspect there are other possible explainations.  The one they gave might not be the full story.  Maybe it was punishment for unpaid gambling debts?  Gambling debts usually end in broken bones or death, though.  Perhaps they did it as part of a magic ritual to try to gain special powers.  What do you think?

Here’s the article where I first read about them:


Gayus Arrested in Singapore

June 17, 2010

Fugitive tax collector Gayus Tambunan was caught in a food court in Orchard Road by two Indonesian policemen who happened to be eating at the same place.  What a come down for someone who had become used to the best money could buy!   The policemen were able to convince him (and his family) to return to Jakarta with them in exchange for their protection and a chicken rice.

A few days ago, investigators seized $US6.5 million in foreign currency and jewellery from safety deposit boxes held in a Jakarta branch of PT Bank Mandiri.  The boxes were kept by Gayus, a former tax investigator.  Not bad going for a public servant, still a young guy, to judge from his pictures.  Gayus wasn’t born into money, here’s a pic showing his parent’s house compared with the one he was living in when things started to unravel:

Imagine letting your parents stay in that house while you’re living in a palace.  Here’s a better shot of the mansion:

Gayus was actually charged last year, when police found Rp 28 billion ($US3 million) in his bank accounts, probably payoffs from companies he had been assigned to audit.  Amazingly, he was acquitted.  But now all this cash has turned up, he’s back under arrest.  Of course, the scandal doesn’t stop there.  He has been linked to 149 companies (presumably those he audited in the past) including PT Dowell Anadrill Schlumberger and another bearing the name ‘Sidoarjo’ (possibly related to Bakrie’s mud volcano?).

In addition, those involved in his previous acquittal: his two lawyers, two police officers, two prosecutors, the judge, two suspected case brokers and a businessman are under suspicion. I wonder how many people’s careers will be in tatters by the end of all this?

In the old days, in the Suharto era, it’s unlikely that a case like this would see the light of day.  People were fearful of making waves in case it disturbed the wrong ones, that can be fatal.  But now, in many ways, it seems the press have more freedom to keep these cases in the public eye and people are more willing to speak up. 

It’s not so easy to hide illegal money.  It’s been the undoing of many criminals.  Did Gayus really think nobody would notice him bringing boxes of cash into the bank?  It didn’t even need a bank clerk to tip off the police, I’m sure the cash box records are regularly checked by the authorities.  The only way to enjoy ill gotten gains is to spend them, but that goes against the grain for someone like Gayus, a family man who might have had the peasant instinct not to waste what he had.  In trying not to waste it, the money was lost anyway.  Well, perhaps not all, I’m sure the loot that’s been found so far is just the tip of the iceburg.

The Way of the Waria

May 19, 2010

Waria or bencong are the local terms for transvestites or transexuals.  ‘Waria’ seems to be the term they prefer.

If you see an attractively shaped, tall girl wearing revealing clothes out on the street, she is almost certainly a waria.  It’s quite common to see them working at traffic lights or anywhere the traffic moves slowly enough.  I assume they’re busking, but no doubt they offer other services too.  I don’t know about this because I try to sink out of sight when my car happens to pull up near them.  This is because the sight of a ‘bule’ usually causes them far too much excitement.

The fact that they exist in a conservative country like Indonesia tells me that it’s not a life choice, but something which exists within the individual.  Why would someone willingly choose to live such a hard life?

In the clip, a pair of waria works the shops along the street.  They will sing, chasing away paying customers, until the shopkeeper pays them a tip and then they move along to the next shop.  In fact, it’s not only waria but a lot of buskers who use this tactic.  If you’re in a warung (small streetside restaurant), its not unusual for a busker to serenade you until you give them a few coins. 

The waria in the clip are in Surabaya, but you can also find waria like these in Jakarta and Bandung (that I know of).

Don’t mistake the girly antics of these waria for weakness.  These are among the toughest people in Indonesia, they have to be.

Of course, not all waria live on the streets.  You are also likely to come across them in beauty salons.  Some have even become TV and pop music celebrities.

Get there Quick by Motorcycle Taxi

May 9, 2010

First time visitors to Jakarta should generally restrict themselves to travelling by taxi if they don’t have a friend to help them get around.  I’ve written about taxis before on this blog.  As an all purpose mode of transport, the taxi is the best, but there are situations which call for alternative means, one of these is the motorcycle taxi, or ‘ojek’.

I usually take an ojek if I need to travel a short distance.  Walking during the daytime causes excessive sweating.  Taxis usually resent giving customers short rides.  I would understand that if I was calling one off a rank, but even the ones you hail from the street don’t like taking short distance fares.  The ojek is ideal for residential back streets.  I try to avoid taking one on the main roads as it can be quite hair-raising and dangerous in heavy traffic, you will also get coated by diesel fumes.  The ojek can also squeeze through traffic jams – while cars are gridlocked, the motorbike can still get through.

The other reason for using ojek is when you’re in a real hurry.  If you really have to get somewhere fast, a taxi isn’t going to do it, especially during rush hour or when it rains.  You will have to accept the additional danger, dirt and discomfort, but if you survive you will have turned a 2 hour trip into 20 minutes.

Finding an ojek is quite easy.  There is generally a designated area at the back exits of major buildings, near pedestrian bridges, neighourhood watch posts and the places where buses tend to stop (notice I didn’t say ‘bus stops’ – buses stop where they feel like stopping).  Just look for a cluster of parked motorbikes.  Sometimes the ojek will find you.  A guy will stand up and raise his finger and you confirm by saying ‘ojek’.  It also works if you can’t spot the ojek rank – just call out ‘ojek!’ and chances are one will come.

One thing to do before you call an ojek is to have an idea of how much it will cost.  It’s best to ask a local person to estimate the likely fare for you.  You will need to do this so you know how much to offer the ojek at the end of the ride.  I’ve found the ojek drivers to be surprisingly honest, so somehow it doesn’t feel right to negotiate the price before the trip.  When I arrive at my destination, I tender the amount I think is right for that distance.  If the ojek looks disappointed then I offer a few thousand rupiah more until we settle on a fair amount.  You will, of course, want to negotiate the price beforehand if you are taking a long distance ride.

Jakarta is the only urban centre in Indonesia where I know they have ojeks.  Places like Yogya and Surabaya still have becaks (pedicabs).  The other place to find ojeks is in the villages.

Crackdown on Kuta Cowboys

April 28, 2010

(Edit: For a better copy of this clip, there’s a link in the comments.  For some reason I haven’t been able to edit it into this post)

Publicity prior to the release of this documentary “Cowboys in Paradise” has created a bit of a stir in Bali.  In fact, the stir has been so big that 28 “beach boys” were recently rounded up on male prostitution charges.  It’s a pity they didn’t round up their customers too.

My guess is that the 28 were blow-ins from Java and Madura.  It’s typical for the local people to blame immigrants.  Judging from what you can see in a short stroll down the street in Kuta, there are many more male sex workers than those 28.  In fact, this problem has been dogging Bali for at least two decades that I know of.  And it is a problem.  The documentary seems to show prostitution in a light-hearted way, but I have met solo female tourists who have had to flee Kuta because of the unwanted attentions of these ‘cowboys’.  I guess it’s ok for those women who go there for the sex, and I’ve not heard of women accompanied by a male being harassed, but there are many more of these male prostitutes than there are customers and these guys are desperate to make money.

The other issues I’m hearing from internet forums are that the documentary is all lies and the relationships between the female tourists and their Balinese ‘boyfriends’ are healthy and in keeping with the local culture.  Well, the film hasn’t been released yet, so I won’t comment on its veracity.  However, although I’m no anthropologist, from the little I know of Balinese society, those relationships are not normal, they only exist because the women have money and offer a potential opportunity for an overseas lifestyle.  Certainly, some are in it for the pleasure, but considering nearly all of them already have wives I’m not sure if that makes the situation so much better.

I suspect there is an even darker undercurrent to this matter.  It would be interesting to know if the lives of these gigolos have been mapped out by social workers.  I believe many of them have drifted in to Kuta as street kids and then forced into prostitution after suffering abuse at the hands of older boys or pedophile tourists.

If the Balinese police were to arrest a few customers, I’m sure this industry would be finished very quickly.

Jakarta Street Food: Ice Cream

April 11, 2010

Indonesian ice cream isn’t the greatest in the world, but I’m putting it in here for completeness.  I guess the problem is the scarcity of dairy products, maybe they don’t use real cream but substitute coconut cream?  At least it’s icy.  I made the mistake once of buying from a Wall’s (Wall’s is a large local icecream maker) vendor and when I unwrapped it I found the icecream had already melted into a sodden mess.

In this clip, the surprisingly morose vendor demonstrates his call – a gong, which allows maids and small children time to gather their money and rush out to buy before he passes along.

Smoking clown – Badut

March 25, 2010

When I think of clowns, I think of the acrobatic ones from the Russian circus with their prat falls, tumbling and slapstick.  I thought that you would at least have to put a bit of effort into it.  Not in Indonesia.  These two slackers get away with a little prancy dance, shake a few kids’ hands and give out baloons that they didn’t even make themselves!

Driving along the street there are signs everywhere saying ‘badut’ and a telephone number.  Sometimes I wondered what it would be like, I’d even considered hiring one for my own personal entertainment.  But now I know that this is all I’d get, I won’t bother.  At 6 minutes, even Mum gets bored and turns the camera on herself. 

I guess the scenario here is these two clowns have been hired by whoever is trying to get all those kids into the building, the advertising would have included clowns as part of the free entertainment.

I love to watch people at work, even when they’re not working very hard.  So here is a slice of life.  The thing I liked the most of this clip is the first few seconds where the sad clown is having a  sit down and a smoke.  Sitting down and smoking is just sooo unclownlike.

Jakarta street food: Jamu

March 15, 2010

I’m a bit ashamed to say I’ve never tried this.  Not so much a food as a health drink.  These ladies (jamu sellers are always ladies) mix up a dose of herbal remedy for any illness you might have.  What she’s serving in the clip looks like a mix of orange juice and pure caffeine.  Personally, I don’t think there’s much to stop them from using stronger chemicals than those found in nature, so I prefer not to take a risk on damaging my liver. (I prefer whiskey for that)

Maybe it’s not the jamu, but the number of Indonesian men who die in their 40s and 50s from kidney and liver diseases is quite amazing.  I wonder if there are any health statistics to confirm my fears.  In any case, they seem to drink a lot of bottled tea, energy drinks, strong coffee, highly sugared natural tea and very little water.  It can’t be good for them.

Ketok Magic

March 14, 2010

The guy in the clip doesn’t look much like the dukun I posted last week (maybe he had a shave after his bath?), but he’s performing a kind of magic.    By the gentle taps you can see him doing on the clip, he is able to beat out the dents in a sheet of metal without disturbing the paintwork.  It works if you just have a dent, not if there’s a scratch or gash, of course.  Still, it’s quite amazing, I recon.  Panel beating while you wait.

This magic is performed throughout Java, perhaps all of Indonesia.  However it originates from Blitar (according to the guy who posted the clip).  So when you’re driving around Java, you will often see a sign ‘ketok magic’.  But if the guy learnt his trade in Blitar, it will say ‘ketok magic Blitar’, so you know it’s the original and (usually) the best.  You mostly find this kind of advertising technique with food – some towns are famous for particular dishes, so the restaurant will make a point of showing that the dish it serves is just like the one from that other town.

So if you’re a panel beater living in the West who wants to make a fortune by learning this skill, you had best buy a ticket to Java.  The only problem is you might never want to leave.

Safety last

February 25, 2010

Ladder in a warehouse

Originally uploaded by about indo

Ok, in order to do some work on the ceiling, the workman stands on the top rung (yes, the top rung) of this ladder, which stands on four pallets, which stand on a scaffold. To give you an idea of scale, you can just see a two-storey office in the corner of the warehouse on the left-hand edge of the pic. So the height is about the same as the roof of a three-storey building. And he’s standing on a narrow slat, working on something overhead. It’s a pity he wasn’t there at the time I took the pic, but I probably wouldn’t have been able to bear watching if he had been there.
It’s a new building. I was told that one of the guys who helped put the roof on had a limp from the damage done to his legs and hips from previous falls, but once he starts climbing, you wouldn’t know it, he’s so agile in the air. Clearly, Indonesian riggers dont bother with harnesses or much else by way of safety equipment.