Another postcard from Tim.

October 1996.

There are hundreds of cities in Indonesia, and I’ve been to almost none. But I have been to Surabaya, the Melbourne of Java. Compared to Jakarta, it is more industrial, more serious, more settled and more out of the way. No city would be worthy of comparison to Melbourne if it wasn’t hosting events of enormous global significance, such as Queensland/NSW rugby league matches. Just as Melbourne has snatched the Grand Prix from Adelaide, Surabaya too has its towering victories, stolen events of earthshaking significance. When I arrived, the Surabaya airport was displaying a large, prominent banner proclaiming the current show-stopper. Yes, folks, Surabaya was hosting, at that very time, the "Technical Workshop on Conservation Priorities and Actions of Edible Birdnest". I tell you, the town was buzzing. I was lucky to get a hotel room. I have photos to prove this, you know.

Jakarta 2 August/September 96 


I'm flying back into Jakarta, into the "worst riots" in 20 years. I found out about this just before I left. It’s a good thing for Philips I’m not the Australian cricket team, or I’d be forfeiting (historical note: Cricket World Cup, Sri Lanka, when Australia forfeited matches in Colombo due to mild possibility of terrorist activity).

I'm Tim Richardson, and I lived in Jakarta between June 1996 and May 1999). I am an Australia male; I was in my late twenties when I moved to Jakarta. These notes will give you an idea of what it was like to live there (in the expatriate's privileged position) back in those days. It was interesting because those three years started in the roaring era of the Tiger economies, and ended after economic catastrophe and the violent transition to democracy.

June-July 1996

Tim Richardson

My room lights don’t work. A road crew of hotel staff is trying to fix the situation, one person lighting the way with candles, and the others looking on. Not a flashlight among them. I almost offered my Maglight, but in the end I thought they all looked happy in the flickering gloom, and left them to it. My first stop was the bar, where I heard yet another awful cover of "I did it my way" by yet another awful Filipino troupe of electronic minstrels. They are the blight of South East Asian hotel lobbies, where entertainment requirements are classic pop, English vocals, and short skirts. This is to appeal to the average member of the audience, who tends to be fat, forty and male. More likely to be Dutch or German than anglophone, but the band must approximate English, here the lingua franca of throwaway music and commercial sex.

A follow on from the Living in Jakarta. This one is also out of date, as I mention money for rent and salaries, you will need to be very cautious.