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Another year another visa extension. But as I sweltered away in the incredibly humid waiting room, it occurred to me that something was deeply wrong: I’m in a government office and the familiar aroma of burning clove cigarettes is notably absent. In fact there’s no smoke. None at all. Well what do ya know? Smoking’s been banned! But only on the outside: the officials continue to puff away on the Gudang Garams behind the glass.

Also, as I look around, I notice another change: all the posters detailing the fees and explaining the processes to get a visa or visa extension have all mysteriously disappeared. So much then for transparency. And in their place? Some nice black and white photographs of Indonesian beaches and landscapes! Maybe one of the officials is a photographer and he wants to showcase his work or something. Well, people have certainly got plenty of time to look at ‘em.

But what really took me by surprise was how often the male officials were touching their female colleagues. A little pat here. The hand placed comfortingly there. I’ve never really noticed this before, but thinking about it now, it does seem to be quite a normal thing to do in Indonesia – provided she’s a colleague or you know her really well (whatever you do, don’t try to touch that pretty girl in the queue at the local bank for example!).

Strange really. Cos in the States or the UK you’d almost certainly be accused of “female sexual harassment” and be dragged off to the local police station for that sort of thing. So I’m glad I live in tolerant Indonesia and not in an increasingly fanatic country like the UK where a woman police officer was upset that the police commissioner tried to touch her. Not in an inappropriate way or anything, but because he wanted to shake her hand! Full story
here.

Update (29 Nov 2010). Time to extend my visa again, but as I head along Jalan Warung Buncit, I am totally nonplussed as the site where the grand old South Jakarta Immigration Office formerly stood is now nothing more than rubble! No this doesn’t mean that they’ve done away with immigration but rather that they’ve decided to build a completely new office. This will take at least two years I am later informed.

In the meantime, the office has been relocated to premises in Lubak Bulus, which is a depressingly long drive away. From Warung Buncit drive south until you come to the main intersection and instead of going straight on – which would take you to Ragunan Zoo – turn right and follow the artery road which runs parallel to the outer ring toll road. Go through two traffic lights and the immigration office is on your left. Don’t go past it, as it is a hell of a job getting back!





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