31. Djakarta. We still didn’t have definite plans but we sent home for additional funds so that no country could use “lack of funds” as an excuse for denying us visas. And having sufficient money to cover anything that might arise gave us piece of mind.
Checking on ships in Djakarta wasn’t an easy matter. There was no central clearing office, and we couldn’t find a printed schedule of arrivals and departures. On a cargo ship, it was the captain who took on passengers, or didn’t, as he liked. Thus, an individual shipping company knew approximately when its own ships were coming in, but they could do no booking of passage. That had to be arranged with the captain himself … after the ship was in port.
We went to several shipping companies but found nothing going directly from Djakarta to India. It looked as if we would have to go to Singapore and get another ship from there or Penang, Malaysia. Our Indonesian visas were due to expire in five days when we learned that a ship was sailing the next day for Singapore, but we couldn’t possibly be ready by then. We still had to sell our bicycles, get health papers for Chanee, consolidate our luggage, etc. We thought if things didn’t work out in time, we’d just have to ask for a few days extension on our visas.
The bureaucracy in India was supposed to be the biggest and most complicated in the world. We had already gotten a taste of it. In the Indian Embassy, a woman at the reception desk couldn’t give us visa information, as they did in other embassies. We first had to fill out a form requesting an interview and then wait about 10 minutes to ask very simple questions. When we returned a week later with our filled out applications, we had to wait again to pay a fee in a certain office. We then wanted to ask one simple question, but everyone kept telling us to fill out a request to talk to the man we saw the week before. So we let the question go.
This stay in Djakarta was eased very much because we were staying in a home. Not only did it greatly reduce our expenses, it also meant that we had a real home to go to instead of an unfriendly hotel room. Our hosts were unbelievably generous! Besides giving up a room for us, they gave us “for remember” a dress length piece of batik, a shirt, and a small family antique. They also had a big picture taking session, and we were presented with 8 nice photos, an expensive gift in Indonesia. And their cook was wonderful … the eating was really tops.
Our host, Saleh, was 47 and 20 years older than his wife, Roos. He demanded constant attention, often to the point of becoming quite annoying. Saleh was so demanding and overbearing that the middle boy (age 5) could only whisper and stammer when Saleh asked him a question. Both he and his 8 year-old brother stood at unbelievable attention when their father lectured them. The youngest, a really cute two year-old, didn’t talk at all. He could have had a physical disability, but Peggy didn’t think that was it. Seeing the poor fellow burst into tears almost every time Saleh spoke to him convinced her that the trouble was psychological. Roos was generally very gentle, and the boys were different people when only she was around.
Most of our free time went into writing Christmas cards. We finally gave up on finding local cards and bought UNICEF cards. While we were in Indonesia, we never received a number of our families’ letters. They were sent back to sender, and for periods of time we didn’t have an address to give people.
After two frustrating weeks of running here and there, following false leads and sitting and waiting and waiting, we were leaving Djakarta and Indonesia. We were not, however, going by ship as we planned, but we were flying directly to Bombay, India. It seemed that Djakarta, like Manila, was a poor city to leave by ship. We quickly gave up the idea of getting a ship directly from Djakarta to India and began looking for one to Singapore where there should’ve been some to India. Several ships were going from Djakarta to Singapore, but they weren’t licensed to carry passengers. (It was funny how law-abiding some people suddenly became in a country where breaking the law was the norm!) It appeared to us that the Indonesian government-run line had a monopoly on carrying passengers between Djakarta and Singapore, and we would have to wait another month or so to go with them.
It wasn’t until a day or so before our visas expired (when a fellow from the American Embassy spent an hour on the phone for us) that we began to piece everything together and to turn our thinking toward flying. Air India’s one flight a week from Djakarta (and from Singapore) was full with people going home for December holidays. The Czechoslovakian Airline, however, ran its weekly flight to Bombay so empty that travel agents gave a 25% under the table discount in order to get passengers. We figured that if we flew to Singapore, spent several days there looking for a ship, then sailed to Madras or Calcutta, we’d end up spending almost as much as the discount tickets would cost us. And besides having to get extra papers for Chanee, Singapore might turn out to be as big a run-around as Djakarta. So although we hated the psychological shock that the speed of the jet age caused us, we decided to go by air.
Chanee was causing Peggy the most worries. Getting the four papers we had to have for him to leave Indonesia required going to a vet and to two offices concerned and showing other papers. And we were concerned that they might spring something else on us at the airport. Arrangements for the flight itself, however, worked out smoothly. We were able to convince the airline that Chanee couldn’t be stored in his basket 24 hours prior to flight time. No matter what arrangements we worked out, however, he was going to be panicky in his basket where he couldn’t get to Peggy. I said he’d fall asleep right away and not wake until Peggy opened the basket in Bombay.
We thought our itinerary in India would become better formed when we got there. We heard the former Portuguese territory of Goa was a good place to rent cheap cottages. We wanted to stop for a couple of months to get a rest from always being on the go and to let some of the coldest weather in Europe go by. We also thought we could travel some in India, in the south, assuming that we liked that part of the country.
Peggy and Randy Ford