Wednesday, September 14, 2005

At the office

Our company canteen is brand new and has hygiene and cleanliness standards as good as anything back home. That's all good, but the food itself is a daily adventure. The only food that doesn't burn your tongue out is the fruit. I love me some hot and spicy grub, but eating it 3 times a day is going to take a little getting used to.

You see bules (white people) in a lot of places you go to in Jakarta, such as hotels, supermarkets, shopping malls etc, but there are also lots of places where we're pretty thin on the ground. Like our factory, for instance. We employ 3300 people here, and there are only two bules - me, and another guy from Adelaide who runs the supply chain side of the business. We tend to be fairly conspicuous around the site, since we're both tall (by Indonesian standards) and have shaved heads. Of course, the locals all think we look alike because of that. He’s overseas on business this week, so I'm the only bule on site, a situation which some people might feel uncomfortable about if it were them. For example, today I walked down to the canteen, which seats 400 at a time (our day shift has 1200 people), and I'm the only westerner there. I can speak maybe 100 words of bahasa Indonesia, so it's not like I can talk about the baseball scores or current events with the people at my table. The people in general are really friendly and genuinely nice, but the Muslim women (75% of our workforce) are very shy around westerners, which means that most of the day all I hear are giggles behind my back. It's a real eye opener from a cultural point of view here, but it's also very interesting and enriching provided you approach every day with an open mind.

Before I started here, an auditor from our US head office came to Jakarta and he arrived with a bodyguard. That incident still gets a lot of laughs from the staff here. 99.9% of the people here (and, remember, there are 220 million of them) are welcoming of westerners and are peaceful friendly people. Unfortunately the media doesn't show that side of Indonesia.


I just had 40 people lined up at my office door waiting to shake my hand, armed with a chocolate cake. It was difficult to keep a straight face listening to a rendition of "Happy Birthday" from a bunch of people whose first language is not English. They did a great job!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Super post! Keep up the good work!

Best Wishes,
Cheap Gasoline

10:14 AM  

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