Friday, November 7, 2008

Night flight to Jakarta

I arrived early at NAIA Terminal 2 and saw a famous TV host check in with her family members. They were headed for Hong Kong; my destination was Indonesia. The man at immigration saw my occupation and said he envied writers. He said he knew a writer who became a lecturer. I'll be one eventually.

Watching the arrivals from Bacolod, I saw what two women brought as handcarry luggage: a computer CPU. Not quite as bad as the vacuum cleaner I saw at Bacolod airport, but either Bacolod is in dire need of a repair shop or they are happy to dispose of their used appliances in Manila.

When V joined me at the gate, I realized that I had not paid the travel tax, which I did not know about. I suppose that was lucky, because my pesos were not enough to pay for them. J arrived just before boarding.

The volume of the cabin announcements is far too loud. "Avoid congregating in groups in any part of the cabin," an in-flight announcement went. Should I be scared that there was a group of men who looked like Arabs on the last rows of the plane?

The flight was not full. There was a gap between me and my nearest seatmate, who looked like a young version of columnist Philip C________. He had a lot of red wine.

The man behind me wanted me to fill out his disembarcation card. My guess is that he did not know how to spell Philippines. I was weirded out, so I told him to ask the cabin crew. I suppose that was rude, but I did not want to get into any trouble.

PR535 arrived at Suharto Hatta before midnight, much earlier than the Cebu Pacific flight that was supposed to be ahead of us. The airport is old but well maintained. There are many local patterns carved and painted on wood incorporated into the architecture. J thought of her hometown, Davao.

instant millionaires

We exchanged our dollars into rupiah at one of the forex stalls. The one without any customers adjusted their rates to draw us in. We got IDR 10,265 =USD1. The taxi touts surrounding the stall were speaking to us in Filipino phrases.

Retiring to our spacious attic room, we felt lucky that the Jakarta head of V's office offered apartment in Menteng while he was away. The area is their version of Forbes and Dasma, without the village gates.

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