19 April 2009

Jakarta - 2nd Worst Place For Expats?

I read in Jakartapost last week on a piece of news which ranked Jakarta as "the 2nd worst place for expatriates to work in outside of the United States, Canada and Westren Europe..".

The report which was published by Businessweek, was compiled by one NY-based HRC company, ORC.

The report cites "threat of violence from extremists, in particular was a serious drawback to living in Jakarta". ORC took into account the following factors - level of pollution, disease, political violence and availability of goods and services.

I surely like to know the methodology of survey (if there's any conducted) to arrive to the findings on Jakarta.

To be ranked 2nd worst must mean only one thing - the expats who took part in the survey (again, if there's any) must have lived in a squatter on the banks of Ciliwung.

That's why, my response to the report is - it is pure BULLSHIT.

Pollution? Yes, Jakarta is polluted but I believe Beijing fares much worse.

Disease? Apart from the occasional flu, I haven't had anything serious. Medical services is easily accessible. So much easier than in the UK, no thanks to the NHS. Believe me, I've experienced it.

Political violence? A zillion times safer than Bangkok.

Availability of goods and services? So much better than Phnom Penh, which I called home for almost a year.

Crime rate? I've not heard any of my expat friends being mugged. But I have plenty of horrible stories of friends being robbed in London.

Yes. There are some drawbacks living in Jakarta. There are times when you'd get utterly frustrated. But after time, you'd adapt. None of the drawbacks are major life threatening issues.

Jakarta is not perfect. So are Kuala Lumpur and many other cities. When you live in a foreign place, one must learn to adjust. Learn to accept how things work and understand their culture.

If you want everything to be as what you are used to, then just stay put where you are and don't ever leave. And you'd miss out on learning a whole new great experience which no book could ever come close to give you.

16 April 2009

Sleepless in Pondok Indah

Last night, I experienced something tense.

It was just a few minutes after midnight. I was in my room and about to retire to bed when suddenly a loud thud came from the ceiling of my room.

This was followed by a peculiar sound. Similar to the sound you get when you slide two pieces of plywood against each other. Almost like someone dragging one's foot on the gypsum board.

I stayed still. Eyes gazed at the ceiling.


Then it happened again. The dragging sound.

It couldn't be a rat. The thud was too loud to be caused by a rat. And the peculiar sound? A rat on cruthes???

I quickly reach for my mobile and called the Pos Keamanan's number.

Me : *Trying to sound as calm and as dignified as possible* Malam mas. Saya Pak Azuan dari rumah nomer dotdotdot di jalan dotdotdot. Boleh datang ke sini? Barusan saya dengar kayak ada orang berjalan di atas atap rumah saya.

Mas PK : Malam pak. Maaf pak. Bapak di rumah yang mana?

Me : Di jalan dotdotdot, nomer dotdotdot. Sepertinya ada orang di atas atap rumah saya. Mohon mas datang dengan segera.

Mas PK : Ohh di nomer dotdotdot. Saya Sofyan bos.

Me : *dah tak maintain macho dah* aduhh Sofyan... cepatan datang. Barusan saya dengar bunyi kayak orang jalan di atas rumah saya. Cepat Sofyan!! Bunyinya kuat!! *I swear I sounded like a bad sinetron actor*

If you recall, Sofyan was the area's security personnel who helped resolve my uncollected garbage problem a couple of months back.

I stayed put in my room.

Then, less than two minutes later (damn... they are more efficient than Ampang's police), someone rang the bell. I ran down the stairs and opened the door. It was Sofyan. He came with six others. Apart from Sofyan I knew one other guy, Ruslee.

I opened the gates and asked them to come in. Sofyan and Ruslee followed me to the balcony just outside my room while three others went to the inner courtyard. Two stood guard at the main door.

Barefooted, Sofyan climbed up the roof. I then asked Ruslee to accompany me to check the balcony leading to the maid's room at the back.

Momets later, Sofyan appeared from the roof just above the maid's room. He then got down stepping on the steel construction which holds the water tank.

They were at my house inspecting every room and corners for nearly 20 minutes. No sign of any person trying to break in.

Before they left we chatted at the main gate.

Sofyan : Gak usah kuatir pak. Pas tadi saya di atap, saya lihat yang jaga di rumah belakang juga lagi nyalain senter ngadep ke arah saya.

Me : Oh ya? Tetangga saya di belakang ada satpam ya?

Sofyan : Iya.

Apparently I found out last night, my neighbour at the back is a big shot of Partai Golkar.

Ruslee : Dulu pernah ada yang coba masuk ke rumah Sherina di hujung sana.

Me: Oh ya? Sherina siapa?

Ruslee : Sherina yang artis itu.

Me : Ohhhh (pretending to know who this Sherina is)

Ruslee : Pernah juga dulu ada warga yang di rampok. Tapi perampoknya gak bisa di lihat bos. Pakei ilmu!!

Damn!! Just the piece of information which I seriously do not need to know. That made the hair on my forearms stood on end.

Ruslee : Tapi gak usah takut bos. Kalo ada apa-apa, telpon aja ke pos keamanan.

With those reassuring words from Ruslee, I thanked them for coming and apologised for the hassle.

What made me worry was, last weekend, while I was about to shut my gates and leave for the gym, a man was walking by and his eyes peered intently into my house.

And two days later, the same suspicious man, walked by at the time when I was about to leave for Fx. Sheer coincidence? Well, probably.

But those two incidents were enough to make me uneasy.

As I'm typing this, I'm feeling sleepy as hell. I had just a few hours of sleep last night. I would open my eyes at the slightest of sound. And the invisible perampok story from Ruslee made going to sleep more difficult. And last night was malam Jum'at.

Lucky me, I'll have company for 3 nights starting tonight. My former boss will arrive later today for a short visit.

I'll worry about the invisible perampok next week.

15 April 2009

Auto Gate - Versi Pondok Indah

My friend Ina, has an automatic gate installed at her house in Taman Selasih Heights (actually, I added the word "Heights" to give it a more exclusive effect).

Ina is a hardworking career woman (over tak aku puji ko?). Her work demands a lot of hours daily. So, inevitably, she would reach home late at night (pepandai je aku buat cerite kan?).

Upon reaching the front gates of her home, she would simply need to click a remote device from her car and voila!!.. the gates would open.

Ina's PRT greets her at the front door and she then press a switch next to the door to shut the gates.

Now, allow me to illustrate the same process, but now, the main character is my neighbour in Pondok Indah.

The time is half past one in the morning. My neighbour's car whizzes past my house and stop right in front of his house gates.

Pooooonnnnn!!!! Pooooon!!!!!Pooooon!!!!!

A few seconds of silence.

Hoooonkk!!!! Hoooonkk!!!!!!Hooonkkkk!!!!!Hooooonkkkk!!!!

Out comes a red and puffy eyed PRT, with hair which resembles a lion's mane, in a oversized t-shirt and a sarong. She runs in tiny little steps to the gates with a bunch of keys in her hand. She then squint her sleepy eyes trying to insert the keys into the padlock.

Gates open, the car drives up the porch. The rear door swings open and my neighbour walks straight into the house through the main door. The driver then shut the gates while the poor PRT finds herway back to her room through the door near the end of the porch, hoping that her disrupted dream would pick up where it had left.

That is Pondok Indah's version of an automatic gate. The process starts with a neighbour (that's me) awaking honk.

Regardless of the time of the day, the process remains the same.

Which leaves me with a few mind boggling (ok, a bit of exxageration here) questions :

  • Why can't the driver open the gates? Is it because opening gates is not in his job specs?
  • Why can't my neighbour or his driver call the PRT to open the gates instead of waking up the poor neighbour (again, that's me) by honking in the wee hours? Panggilan dari Esia ke Esia murah loh!!
  • Why can't my neighbour (who BTW could afford owning fancy cars and a big house in Pondok Indah) simply install an automatic gate? Kan bisa pamer ke tetangga yang lain..
  • When was the last time my neighbour had physical contact with the iron gates of his own home?
The frequent incident as illustrated above led my curiousity to inspect the gates of other houses in the vicinity. On the pretext of a Sunday morning jog (it was actually more of a brisk walking), I went past from one house to another. And what a remarkable finding I got at the end of a 15 minute (ok, I was feeling a bit lazy that morning) brisk walking. None has an automatic gate!!

So, my short and sweet conclusions are - either the house owners in Pondok Indah do not know the existence of an auto-gate or they are simply kedekut nak mampus.

Somehow, I'm more inclined to the latter.

14 April 2009

Entry Basi - Java Jazz 2009 Pics

I almost entirely forgot about the JavaJazz pics. But thanks to Roid (seorang bakal seleb dan teman gym Doni Ada Band), lewat reminder yang penuh sopan-santun di shoutbox gue, I am now sharing a few of those pics.
Can't remember the name of this big band but I almost fell asleep during their performance

Laura Fygi sedang menggeselkan kopek yang gatal di kepala lelaki Jawa yang beruntung

JK's not so sexy back

A glimpse of RAN before we decided to run off for another show

Manusia berduyun-duyun berjalan tanpa arah tujuan yang jelas

07 April 2009

Desa Parkcity

I had only one day to spare for my dearest friend Peanutbutter. When I reached KL, she was still on vacation in Australia.

PB used to live not too far from my house. Memang senang le nak jumpa.

I went to pay a visit at her new home. Ingatkan jauh. Idak le jauh sangat. From my house it took just half an hour via MRR2.

PB tengah tempang. Timah (her PRT), has gone home to get married. Initially, PB gave a 3-week leave but Timah sesuka hati dia je mintak extend sampai 4 minggu. Acara pasca nikah enak banget kale ya?

PB prepared lunch - steamed siakap, cumi masak sambal and a bowl of veggies. Her mom and brother joined us halfway through lunch. "Reti kamu masak?" was the compliment given by her mom. PB's mom and my mom have a lot of similarities. Both know the latest gossips of Malaysian celebs.

Her new home is huge. The master bedroom itself, bak kata PB, boleh main boling. But what I want to share with you is how well planned the whole area is. With pedestrian footpaths, covered drainage, good security and the most amazing of all - a well maintained park.

Now, can someone tell me what type of car the Yand Di-Pertua (YDP) of Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya uses to commute to work?

I think that car has the best suspension system in the whole wide world! Otherwise he would have been in a bumpy ride everyday to work thanks to the deplorable conditions of the roads in Pandan Indah and its surrounding areas.

I have reason to believe that the YDP's car is also heavily tinted that he could not see the shameful state of cleanliness around Pandan Indah and Pandan Jaya.

Then a friend told me it might be now that Selangor is under the opposition, MPAJ has limited funds to repair the roads. I strongly doubt that. I know. I've lived there for 25 years. The road condition has always been bad whether under PKR or BN.

I still remember when PM Abdullah (now ex PM, Alhamdulillah) was visiting to officiate the opening of Pasar Muhibah, MPAJ only resurfaced the roads leading to that place. If one was to deviate from this road, then he's in for a really bumpy ride.

The funny thing is, Taman TAR, which is also under MPAJ, is so well maintained. Iya-iyalah!!! That's where a lot of Malaysian VVIPs live. From cabinet ministers, royalties to the creme-de-la creme of Malaysian elites. Such glaring double standards!

To MPAJ, we pay our taxes too. Please treat us better.

Official car of YDP Majlis Perbandaran Tatooine Jaya

Pasar Senen

If you want to get yourself delicious and cheap Indonesian kue, and don't mind travelling at wee hours , then you should go to Pasar Senen.

A friend of mine, Syarliz, who was on holiday in Jakarta with a few family members, wanted to get some kue to be brought back to KL. Having been there a couple of days earlier, they enthusiastically told me of the vast variety of kue and of how ridiculously cheap they were.

So, at almost 1.00am, I drove them to Pasar Senen. But prior to that, I had to refer to the Jakarta road map to guide me on how to reach the place.

Luckily, we did not get lost. Reached Pasar Senen in about 30 minutes. The traffic was smooth. Iya iyalah!!! Udah pukul 1 pagi!!!

The place was without a doubt a kue heaven. Rows after rows of long tables with all sorts of traditional kue and cakes. It was not busy as according to Syarliz, who had done a little interviewing with the kue sellers herself, peak hours are between 3 to 6 in the morning. That's when people come flocking the place to get their supply of kue to be sold at their shops elsewhere.

Since I was with a group of tourists, most of the kue sellers were kind enough to allow us to sample the kue. I guessed they were too tired to explain after being barraged with questions on how this or that kue tastes like.

And as for gue, I know now how exorbitantly huge a margin my favourite kue joint in PIM 1 makes out of each kue. Here at Pasar Senen, one of my all time favourites, risoles, is almost 10 times cheaper.

Gue borong yang namanya lemper ayam. Lemper ayam is a must during meetings at the office. On most instances, I would be the first to reach out for this kue - barely 5 minutes into the meeting. Gak kuat nahan nafsu soalnya. Once, I could not promptly answer a question from my chairman because I had just stuffed a lemper ayam into my mouth. I can still vividly remember the expression on the faces of my CEO and CFO.

We spent just over an hour at Pasar Senen. Fully aware that their luggage have exceeded the alllowed limits, my guests bought quite a lot of kue anyway.

To my Malaysian readers, Pasar Senen is highly recommended if you would like to sample a wide variety of Indonesian kue. If you come here in a taxi (preferably Bluebird), do ask the taxi driver to wait because it is quite difficult to get a reliable taxi around this area at such odd hours.

06 April 2009

Short Break Pt. 2 - Cerita Bergambor

My 1 yr old nephew. Last I saw him was during lebaran. Now, he has started to walk. Switch on the cartoon netwok and his eyes would be fixed on the telly.

Earth Hour - I was in The Curve during the one hour lights off. Somehow I have doubts about the effectiveness of this overblown exercise.

Apart from Vincci, Ikea is another favourite among my Indonesian friends
The lady in the pic below is an old friend of mine. Our friendship goes back 15 years. She was a law undergraduate at Cambridge University. However, she spent a lot of time in Portsmouth during weekends. Ko bosan ngan mamat2 nerd kat Cambridge kan? The orang putih next to her is her Aussie hubby, Thomas (who btw loves eating petai lightly fried in olive oil.... err Mazola takleh ke?). They were in Kuala Lumpur for a pet search and rescue mission. They now reside in Melbourne.

This is Hairie. She's someone else's wife. My neighbour's wife to be precise. Her house is very near to my mom's house. I could call out from my room window to her kitchen. Yupp, that near. But, when I was still living in KL, we seldom meet each other. Sibuk benor pompuan ni. She's now a fulltime housewife. But still, she's seldom at home. Ko bisnes hapa ni?

The guy in the pic below is my bidan terjun sopir, Ijal. He's the one who picked me up at the airport. He loves older women. Yupp, dia demen banget ama tante2. Tante murung bisa berubah jadi tante girang setelah ketemu om Ijal.

L-R : Zaharah and Ina. Ina had just recently became a mother to a lovely baby girl, Arianna. As always, everytime I'm in KL, there would be a makan-makan at Ina's house. Zaharah is very good at getting the rest of the group to congregate at the shortest of notice.
Ina: "Percayala, aku akan pulangkan balik kamera tu"
Zaharah : "Alhamdulillah....." (sambil jari pantas kilat sms kat org Fixed Asset)
Ijal was so happy to discover that he could fit into an F1 car. Walaupun bahagian samping dah bergesel ngan dinding.
Ina : "No Arianna. It's full of food. There's no baby in Uncle Ijal's tummy"

Had just enough time to squeeze a meeting with my other neighbour, Redmummy and Sirman. We met over breakfast at Qbistro, nearby our apartment. Jangan lupa projek underground kita.

Red and Sirman's adorable daughter.
Finally, apart from sate, I made it a point not to miss the following:

Short Break

Last week I went back to Kuala Lumpur for a short break.

And now I'm back in beloved Jakarta. It's raining heavily outside as I'm typing this. From my office, I could see Arteri Pondok Indah inundated, causing a very bad macet.

Actually, my return to KL was not without a purpose.

To visit my parents before they leave for umrah.

Somehow, I could sense what will top the list of my mom's do'a in Mecca for her not too young son in Jakarta.

I'm pretty positive the do'a for me will have the following words - cepatkan jodoh and menantu solehah. And most probably the following - anak aku jadi kaya, kalau boleh jadi millionaire, tapi millionaire ringgit bukan millionaire rupiah.

Ok. The latter is what I would like my mom to include in her do'a.

I arrived in KL last wednesday. A good old friend, Ijal, was kind enough to risk losing his job to pick me up. Usually Penutbutter would do the honours but she's away getting herself a tan Down Under.

I guessed I chose the wrong day to return for my short break. That night, I switched on the telly only to be greeted by KJ making his winning speech.

All I can say is that the speech really came from his heart.

Hence, the speech was lacking in sincerity and honesty. It was as fake as a Louis Vuitton handbag sold at ITC Mangga Dua. Not those sold at the kiosks (which are the better quality fake ones) but more like those pile sold under the stairs.

That's pretty much sum up KJ's winning speech.

Allow me take you back to the Soekarno-Hatta airport before departing for KL. This trip marked as my first ever trip post fiskal-free policy. I'm sure glad that my staff had arranged for my NPWP number a few years back.

However, just because one need not pay fiskal doesn't mean there is one less process to go through. You still have to queue your ass at the NPWP validation counter. When everyone else in the world is trying to simplify matters at the airport, here, they just don't deem it necessary to do so.

Did you know that the airport tax has gone up by Rp50,000 to Rp150,000? I looked around to find justifications in the airport tax increase. I could only find one.

Newly refurbished toilets. And oh, the new terminal 3. To be fair to us passengers, shouldn't they impose the new airport tax after the new terminal is operational?

And Angkasa Pura 1 (the airport operator) is not poor. Go search their financial report and see for yourself.

Upon arrival at KLIA, Ijal was already there. As I was dying for sate, we took the Kesas highway and made a quick stop at it's R&R where there's a branch of Sate Hj. Samuri. Ordered five sticks of delicious chicken sate and finished the entire small bowl of peanut sauce.

And teh ais. Gulped down two glasses of cheap Malaysian teh ais. Heaven.

Everytime I go back to Malaysia for a holiday, once in a while, Bahasa Indonesia would suddenly blurt out. Not while conversing with family members or friends but when I'm doing my shopping or ordering food.

There were plenty times I called out for a waiter as mas. Then, at a handphone shop last year, while haggling for the price, I asked "Nggak bisa kurang?" to which I got a very confused look from the seller.

This time around, I did it again, fully unaware. I was in a shop in KLCC when I asked the shop assistant " Ukuran M nya ada nggak?".

Although I was in Malaysia, there were so many things around me which would remind me of Indonesia. Switch on the satellite TV, Astro, then you'd get many titles of Indonesian sinetron. Heck, they even have Suami-suami takut Istri!!

Then of course, the PRT at my parent's home. Her name is Ros. OK. I admit. It's a very universal name. Not a unique Indonesian name like Guritno, Endah, Kartika, Ningsih, Puspita or Tukiyem. I can't help but to speak to her in Bahasa Indonesia. And she would reply in perfect Bahasa Malaysia.

One day last week, I asked for a favour.

"Ros, boleh tolong saya nyetrika kaos ini nggak?" To which she took my shirt and started giggling. And I just stood there wondering if I had used the wrong word.

I'm sure I'd miss Jakarta when I go back to KL for good.

I'll upload photos from my holiday tomorrow. Opss... Foto-foto JavaJazz masih terhutang... I'll upload those as well.