Monthly Archives: August 2012


After my marriage, I have spent more time in a hotel in Jakarta than I have in my home. Sometimes, I break into cold sweat at the thought that I have become the stereotypical expat wife that I always read about in glossy magazines. The sitting-by-the-hotel-swimming-pool-drinking-juice types. I have also realized that though it is luxurious, when done often enough, it can lead to a certain amount of mental atrophy. There is only so much window shopping a sane human being can indulge in. You know that things are going downhill when you can reel off all the items on the menu from memory. Gradually, when the novelty wears off, a certain amount of loneliness also sets in because you are in a foreign country where you don’t really have too many friends and inevitably, the husband is often very busy. That is when I started looking for people to talk to.

The most immediate people available to listen to you are the hotel staff. But its a challenge to communicate with them since not all of them understand or speak English very well. For instance, the masseuse who worked on my painful knee today. Sometimes she doesnt understand a word of what I say, but she ALWAYS smiles and NODS whenever I say something. I started learning a few words of Bahasa (local language in Indonesia) so that I could make myself understood. I have been practising it on the waitresses, the bell-boys, the room-service staff and anybody who will listen. Whenever I ask them “saya adalah bahasa yang baik?” (“Is my Bahasa good?”) , they LAUGH! And I laugh too.

Somehow, my efforts seem to be connecting with them. The lady who makes the bed told me, in broken English, how her husband beats her and she is only waiting for her children to grow up. She told me about her faith in God and how she keeps working hard everyday so that her children can go to school. Another young girl from housekeeping said that her dad worked as a chauffeur for the owner of the hotel. Her dream is to become a receptionist in the hotel but she doesn’t know if she will ever make enough money to get the training she needs.  I am often taken by surprise and humbled when they share these personal stories with me. My husband often asks, “How come they tell you these things?” I don’t have an answer to that. Maybe because when they come to the room, I talk to them..ask them their names, about their families, etc.To them, I am a safe listener. They know that tomorrow I will probably never come back to the hotel and their stories will just travel with me safely. But I know these apparently ordinary people have taught me a thing or two about resilience.

The Hotel Staff in Indonesia


A mini visit to ‘Mini Indonesia’

A mini visit to ‘Mini Indonesia’

“Stranded in Jakarta.” That is what comes to mind every time my husband and I have to spend a weekend in the capital city of Indonesia. To beat the boredom, we decided to venture out to see ‘Taman Mini Indonesia’, a sprawling culture-based recreational area, spanning 250 acres that brings to life all the twenty seven provinces of Indonesia. Conceived by the Tien Suharto, wife of the late President Suharto, and built in 1975, the park recreates  the architecture, food, dress and handicrafts of every island on separate pavilions. It was a visual delight to see the dazzling delights of one thousand islands captured beautifully in one place. A wobbly cable car ride gives a bird’s eye view of the park which also has a lake that is a miniature recreation of the Indonesian archipelago. There is an aviary housing the 160 indigenous species of Indonesia’s rare birds and a reptile museum housed in a building that resembles a dinosaur. In case you are not a culture-vulture, a water park, an imax theater and a collection of museums ranging from telecom to transport make this definitely one of the must-visit places in Indonesia.The fun part is getting around the sprawling acreage on these eccentric two-wheelers which are designed to make the pillion rider feel way shorter than the driver!

What was shocking though was the incredible tourist-unfriendliness of the place. All the signages are in Bahasa, there was no one at the Information centers and there was not one person we came across that understood even very basic English to give us directions. As though shying away from all things global, the tiny restaurants that dot the park serve only local soft drinks. No coke or pepsi? Dude, seriously! The  refreshingly sweet coconut water saved the day.

Taman Mini is Indonesia’s best kept secret. A little sprucing up, a little more tourist-friendliness and Taman Mini could perfectly showcase to the world what a fascinating place Indonesia is.