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Jakarta Day 5: Wednesday, July 19, 2017

National Monument

The Indonesian National Monument in Jakarta

On our way to the U.S. Consulate in Jakarta we finally left the area of “loop” we’d been stuck in all day and headed toward the more modern section of Jakarta’s downtown. We passed several monuments, including a statue of a well-muscled man in a rice farmer’s hat with his wife holding a dish by his side. We also passed the National Monument – a pillar with a golden flame at the top.

We are in the process of building a new embassy in Jakarta, which will be ready by April, but for now rent out space in a building. We had to pass through two layers of security to get into the high rise and be ushered up an elevator and onto the floor where our briefing would take place. We had to surrender our passports and were given badges, similar to what we did the day before at AMINEF.

We were given two briefings, with the session led by Bill Little, Regional English Language Officer. The first was medical, and Dr. Barca explained all the possible ways we could get sick and how to avoid them. It basically boiled down to these suggestions: don’t eat the food, don’t drink the water, don’t breathe the air, and don’t touch the animals. By that, I mean don’t eat food from a roadside cart or any place we can’t verify it was prepared with hygienic methods, drink only bottled drinks and no ice, wear face masks in cities if we have allergies or asthma, and don’t touch the animals because they can have rabies or fleas (Black Death, anyone?) or other diseases.

Statue

Statue in the center of a traffic circle on our way to the U.S. Consulate in Jakarta.

Then we had a security/safety briefing by Dave Skall, the Regional Security Officer, which seemed a bit late since we had already been in the country for several days. He told us about some of the security threats. As a Muslim nation, Indonesia does have some terrorist activity. There was a bombing of a Starbucks in Jakarta in January 2016 that left seven dead including four terrorists. There have been bombings of hotels in Jakarta and nightclubs in Bali over the last 15 years that have killed over 200 people, and the threat level in Indonesia is considered high. But most attacks are targets of opportunity, where foreigners have been alone or not aware of their surroundings and have walked into dangerous situations. With a little common sense, we should be all right. We just have to learn how to be less of a target. He said trauma care is spotty here, so don’t ride a Gojek and don’t fall into an active volcano. Official protests of the government are common, so we should simply stay clear of them as moods can shift suddenly.

Bill finished up by saying that he’s been here over six months and hasn’t had any problems with ice, but we should be careful anyway. He spoke of his role as the consular representative for English learning exchange programs, and gave us Embassy bags with materials and flash drives of his programs to give to our host teachers. I asked if we could all get an Embassy bag, and he went and found some to give to each of us. Cool!

Snack carts

Hand carts for selling food in Jarkarta, Indonesia.

After going back through security and getting back our passports, we stood outside the annex’s front gate and waited a few minutes for our bus as clouds rolled in and it began to drizzle. It was threatening rain all the way back to our hotel.

With the possibility of rain, I didn’t want to venture out to find supper but was hungry enough that just eating snacks in my room wouldn’t be enough. After resting, I went back down to the lobby at 6:00 and met with several other teachers to eat at the Lebanese restaurant in the hotel. I had beef shish kabob and red lentil soup, both of which were delicious. It was the best lentil soup I’ve ever had. Several of our group are vegan or have severe allergies, so they had to ask quite a few questions of the waiters to make sure the food would be OK. It would be a challenge to travel to a foreign country with such food restrictions, and my hat is off to anyone who is brave enough to try. It takes quite a commitment to question all ingredients to make certain they are cooked correctly. I should be more careful eating all the pastries at the hotel’s buffet, since I am a Type II diabetic, but at least I don’t have to eliminate all starches and sugars, simply try to limit them as best as I can, and it is usually easy to tell which foods to avoid.

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