At last we touched down and my outer garments were quickly dispensed of as the heat hit me. I picked up my suitcase and I was through, but though I easily found the cafe my friend told me to meet at, he wasn’t there and mild panic again set in.
With not a bean of local currency on me, I exchanged £30, caring not about the poor exchange rate I’d no doubt be getting.
I went back to the cafe, ordered a coffee, turned round and at last, there was Paul, greeting me with a customary “Alright butt?” All smiles, I was a happy man. In his exceptionally good Indonesian, Paul made mine a coffee to go, we got that, Paul kindly took my suitcase, and we headed off to meet his driver. We had a short wait before he arrived and we were then heading into Jakartan traffic. Jakarta has no underground system (though there is one in the process of being built), so you can imagine how busy the roads get, with hordes of taxis and swarms of bikes everywhere, horns beeping aplenty.
We got to Paul’s apartment and I greeted Paul’s lovely wife, Shinta and their baby’s nanny, and I met Paul’s three month old baby Tulus for the first time. We then headed for Paul’s balcony and I had my first experience, beer now in hand, of the spectacular view of the Jakartan cityscape from Paul’s twenty third floor apartment. Truly, a remarkable view, though for anyone suffering vertigo like myself, it was also slightly traumatic!
Perhaps as I’d slept on the plane, or perhaps because of the time difference, I didn’t feel as tired as I might have done, but nonetheless, it was getting late in Indonesia and I shortly headed to bed. The next day I would be meeting my other old friend who lives in Jakarta, Stuart.
Stu and I had arranged to meet in the ex-Pat bar, Eastern Promise which was approximately forty minutes away by taxi. I arrived a little earlier than our planned meeting time, but despite it being barely lunch time, I thought I might as well get the first beer in. I got the wifi password and was in the middle of messaging home when Stu walked in, grinning in his usual manner. I had seem Paul more recently, but had not seen Stu for around five years as he hadn’t been back to the UK. It was great to see him and he hadn’t changed a bit – ok, maybe he was carrying a little extra girth.
We ordered a pitcher of beer and headed for the pool table. Over a couple of games of pool, we caught up, sharing stories and reminiscing.
We ordered a second pitcher – Stu was downing the beer considerably quicker than I was – his ability to consume is another thing that hadn’t changed.
Finally, we settled up and bundled into Stu’s waiting car (like Paul, Stu also employs a driver). Stu was absolutely bursting for the loo, so we had to stop en route to his home at a petrol station, to Stu’s relief.
Along with Stu, I was quite keen to meet Stu’s wife, Melisa. Stu had got married “in secret” in America around four years ago, only telling myself and his brother Ben that he was about to get married just a few days before, giving us no time to plan and make the wedding.
Stu has not been back to the UK since, so I’d never met Melisa. There is quite a funny story revolving around Stu and his wife. They had met online before Stu had moved to Indonesia. Stu had asked jokingly if she knew our mutual friend, Paul Bartlett. At that stage she didn’t, but incredibly, Melisa went on to be Paul’s boss!
They kept their relationship secret from Paul right up until after they got married, and Stu relates the story of the time he finally fessed up about the marriage, showing Paul the picture of his now wife. Apparently the two of them then fell about laughing for a good quarter of an hour.
Well, I was finally due to meet the legendary lady. I wasn’t quite sure how to react. Paul and Melisa had not got on when they worked together, but she was Stu’s wife!
We were outside Stu’s apartment block when Melisa and their three year old daughter Emily “surprised” us by approaching from behind. Emily was a bit shy, but Melisa greeted me quite warmly.
That evening, I had my first taste of proper Indonesian cuisine as we went to a nearby fish restaurant. At this restaurant, you could choose from the live fish which would then be cooked for your meal. Stu does not like sea food so chose chicken (I don’t think these were live at the restaurant!), while I left my choice to Melisa.