Having spent time away from Indonesia makes me appreciate by the country’s eccentricities – and at the same time be horrified by them as well. Let’s start with the beginning of my journey back to Jakarta …
When we took the flight from Adelaide to Singapore – everybody was orderly when we were told to board the plane according to row numbers. By and large we were compliant so the whole boarding process was really painless. It’s a much welcome experience to fly again with Singapore Airlines after being used to travelling with Qantas and Virgin. When I used to fly with them regularly in the past, I took their service for granted. This time, I am reminded at how efficient and friendly the crew are in providing their impeccable service. It’s like the perfect marriage of German efficiency and Asian charm.
When we landed at Singapore Changi Airport, we had to wait for around five hours before we had to board our connecting flight to Jakarta. So Yani and I spent some time looking around at the shops, and I also managed to spend some time working to further fix some loose ends. It’s no wonder that Changi is continuously voted as the Best Airport in the world, because you really wouldn’t mind spending some hours waiting there – or even if you do have a choice to fly in and out quicker.
The flight to Jakarta was a quick refresher for me of how things are in Indonesia. When all of the passengers went to the gate, there were only two officers helping us to check our boarding passes at the front of the room. As we sat and waited for the announcement to board the plane, nobody really controlled whether we complied or not. So, as the announcement came for business class passengers, frequent flyers (the usual dignitaries – yadda, yadda, yadda) to board the plane, a group of passengers sitting closer to the door started to get up and board the plane. Everybody followed suit. The officer who made the announcement didn’t bother checking the room whether there was still anybody left when he mentioned progressive row numbers. He was probably making announcements to an empty room! *laugh*.
It was then understandable why one of the more senior air stewards who greeted the passengers looked quite grumpy. He probably observed the irregular seat numbers and probably attributed that to Indonesian passengers being unruly and uncivilised. Perhaps some of this generalisation is true. You would also think this as you landed at the airport, greeted by the clove-scented humidity and the chaos at the customs. If you think that this is the extent of the chaos that you will experience, wait until you head out of the airport. You will be greeted by people jostling to meet newly-arriving passengers, legal and illegal taxi drivers, porters, and undoubtedly pickpockets and any shady characters who would pounce at those looking like deers in the headlight. This will be your official welcome to Indonesia – the prelude to the traffic chaos ahead of you.
This may sound scary for westerners and visitors from countries like Singapore. Then it occurred to me. As much as I would like Indonesia to become more orderly and sanitised like Singapore, I appreciate Indonesia for what it offers: down-to-earth acoustic charm that may not be pitch-perfect but warms the heart. This is why music lovers continue to appreciate acoustic music although more precise digitally-synchronised and produced songs abound. You accept the impurities, the irregularities, the errors and the chaos, because this makes the arrangement warm and personal. This is what you will find in Indonesia – if you expect efficiency and precise digital music, you’ll probably be horrified and disappointed. However, if you’re willing to enjoy a down-to-earth acoustic arrangement, you’ll be handsomely rewarded.