Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Posted by Monica Johansen on September 5, 2009

Is there something like cursed weeks? If there is, this must be one of mine.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, it all started when I ended up in a car crash on the highway pretty much as soon as I had entered Indonesia on Sunday night. It didn’t feel so bad in the beginning, but when I woke up in the morning the next day I could hardly move my head. For the following couple of days I lived on ibuprofen in order to function properly, but luckily the neck pain got better after a few days and now I am almost as good as new. Almost…

Busy Jakarta

Busy Jakarta

The next unfortunate event was of course the major earthquake that hit Indonesia on Wednesday. It was a magnitude 7.3 earthquake, which is pretty serious, and a lot of houses outside of the main cities were damaged. They are still counting the casualties, so I don’t have any number on how many people who died, but it was definitely catastrophic for many people in Indonesia. Luckily for me, and many others with me, I was working in an office building in Jakarta when the earthquake stroke. Most of the modern buildings in Jakarta are constructed to handle up to magnitude 8.0 quakes, so as far as I heave heard from the news here there were no major damages to office buildings. Nevertheless, it was quite a frightening experience.

I was doing some policy testing for a customer that day, and suddenly I started to feel dizzy. At first I thought that maybe my blood sugar level was getting low, but then I noticed that some of the guys in the office were looking out the window. There was a helpdesk sign hanging from the ceiling just next to where I was sitting, and I saw that the sign was moving, and suddenly someone shouted “earthquake”. We all got up and moved away from the windows in case the glass would break, and as I leaned towards the wall I could feel it moving. We also heard a small tinkling sound as if pieces of plaster and bricks were hitting the ceiling above us. I looked at the people around me, and they all looked a bit worried, so I asked them if these things were common. They told me that they often experienced smaller quakes, but nothing like this one and not that lasted so long. However, the worst part was that it seemed to get worse every second.

Earthquake evacuation

Earthquake evacuation

All of a sudden we could hear a warning message on the calling, and we all ordered to evacuate immediately. Luckily we were only on third floor, so it was not very far down. As I walked down the fire stairs I looked around, and I could see huge cracks in the walls and pieces of plaster on the floor. At the entrance the water was dripping from the ceiling as if a water pipe was broken. We all gathered on a huge field outside the office, and then we had to wait and see what happened next. A lot of people were desperately trying to call their families, but it was difficult to get through on the phone since pretty much everyone in Indonesia would try to call someone at the same time. One of the guys in the IT team made sure everyone were out and safe, and once we all were registered we were told that we could go home. Unfortunately, I had my computer in the office upstairs, and I couldn’t get any work done without it so I just had to wait and hope that we would be able to get back in. At last the building was declared as safe and I could get my things and get back to the hotel.

The quake caused a little bit of project delays since I lost valuable time, but I managed to catch up to some extend before I had to head out to the airport on Friday afternoon. I was hoping to get a Silverbird taxi outside the office, but I couldn’t find any and since I was running a bit late I had to jump into a Bluebird instead. Now, most Bluebird taxis are OK, but the problem is that you never know what you will get, and this time I wasn’t so lucky. First of all, the driver didn’t speak English at all, which makes it hard to communicate in the event of issues. Secondly, he wanted me to pay for the road toll and he told me that I had to pay 200,000 rupiah (which apparently was the only English he knew), but I noticed the sign that said 5,500 rupiah so he didn’t get away with his scam. However, the real problem started when he suddenly got a flat tire and he had to stop and change tire in the middle of nowhere on the highway with very primitive tools. I was looking at my watch and starting to get very stressed since I was already running late and the driver was not working were fast to change the tire. I was trying to ask him to help me get another taxi, but since he didn’t speak English it was not so easy. My stress level was getting dangerously high at that point.

Traffic jam

Traffic jam

I got out of the car and looked around to see if I could find a solution. There were plenty of taxies on the road with passengers going to the airport, and I could potentially stop one of them and ask the driver if I could join. But fortunately I didn’t have to, because an empty taxi had already seen me standing there, and he pulled over and asked me (in English thanks Heaven!) if I needed a lift. I paid the other driver the meter fare, and jumped into the new car, and luckily there were no more difficulties. When I finally reached the airport I was so happy that he had stopped and picked me up that I paid him double rate. I suppose that was what you would typically call a win-win situation.

The rest of my journey was pretty painless, apart from a delayed airplane of course. But I am quite used to delayed flights on Fridays nights, and back in Europe my London – Oslo flight every Friday night was more or less almost late. Anyway, it is fantastic to be home in good old Singapore. Home, sweet home! 🙂


2 Responses to “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

  1. Nina said

    Hjelpe og trøste for en uke du har hatt!!! Godt det gikk bra 🙂

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