Sunday, September 29, 2013

Salam Solo!

I’m lounging in my rather nice hotel in Solo. It’s quite a stark contrast to what I was able to see of the streets outside with single story wooden shops (mostly closed by nine o-clock) as we drove here. Feels a bit like I am doing the whole thing wrong. I’m acting and being treated as the outside westerner… the country catering to me rather than me to them. But then again, that is why they have chosen to host the summit. To attract tourists who want to feel at home abroad. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the conference.

The flight from London to Dubai was uneventful. I watched a movie in Indonesian (not that I learned any of the language, but it helped put a nicer picture in my head than crime and drugs) an episode of Sherlock (quite a good crime drama actually, except that Watson probably ought to be sacked for completely unprofessional behaviour as a social worker. Correct me if I’m wrong, but none of my social worker friends have in their job description hanging around the client’s house in sexy-ish pajamas, snooping on his stuff without permission and giving their number out to any distressed teenager they meet. Still she’s very good.) I sat next to the most delightful child, who can’t have been more than one and a half. I also tried to watch World War Z, but too many rabid zombies in the first twenty minutes sort of put me off, so I just stole glances at the rest on the screen of the guy next to me. I may never know the fine details, but maybe that’s for the best. I gather Brad Pitt managed to find a vaccine, save the world and be reunited with his very pretty family, so that’s nice.

Landed in Dubai and made a bee-line for the toilets, not because I was in a particular rush to use them, but because I wanted to see if anything would be different. To my delight, though they were mostly western style there was a bidet hose on the wall. I managed to make a bit of a mess in the process of picking it up (very sensitive on-button!!!) so left the loo slightly sheepishly with damp patches on my trousers and bag.

The airport is otherwise pretty much like any other airport I’ve ever been in though there is a prayer room which is a cool concept (I didn’t intrude on it though.) I bought an overpriced hot chocolate and settled down to write the first part of this blog post.

The second leg of the journey was the longest: an 8 hour stretch from Dubai to Jakarta. I had vaguely considered the option of staying in Dubai for 11 hours and actually going beyond the airport, but after landing in Jakarta with 19 hours of traveling completed and several more to go I think I made the right choice for this time around.

When I was picking up my tourist visa ($25 and I can stay for up to 30 days) the woman asked if she could take my picture. I assumed it was some sort of formal thing, so politely said ‘of course’ and she whipped our her pink i-phone. I like to think that it’s because, as the only American in sight I was suitably exotic, but it could equally be that the was astounded by the state of my hair (I put my hairbrush in checked baggage you see… or at least I hoped I did!). Then came an interminable queue for to get through border control. Once I got to the front it all went pretty smoothly.

Jakarta was lovely. The airport has a lot more character than any other I have been in. The big picture windows look out on well kept gardens in full bloom. The bathrooms have a mixture of seats and squats (which I still haven’t braved.)

 Final stop: Solo where I was met by two of the tourist hosts for the summit.

Here there was a sign on the wall, detailing the toilet standards, including such points as:

1. the floor is always dry and clean

4. No smelly things, and the room’s fregrance is available

10. Covered from outsider

11. Room isn’t lack of fresh air and exhaust fan is available

12. Clothes hanger is available.