Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Bye, bye, 2009!

(Deep breath) Hello again!  Where shall I begin this one?!

So I last wrote about leaving Medan and heading towards the promised land of Phuket.  That happened, and it happened in style, but the journey back to my new 'home' was somewhat of a testing time.  All shall be revealed.

Ok, so I got all excited at the prospect of spending a week on my own.  I like everyone I have been living with the past month and a half, but the transition back into Uni-style housing was taking its toll.  Having to either live with other peoples mess or clean it up myself was getting to be a pain in the preverbial.  So I packed my 17kg life into my sisters ever-beaten-up rucksack and made my way through the red-tape of an Indonesian airport, paid my taxes and boarded my Air-Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur (KL).  My base manager just happened to be on the same flight so we had a good old discussion about the previous nights antics.  That involved the girl who was on my course getting extreemly battered on Gin and Tonic and pretend that she was a pool-queen, nearly taking a lot of eyes out with each shot that went skywards.  I was significantly sober I might add at this point as in my previous growing-up experiences I have found that a night of drinking followed by a day of flying (as a passenger!) is not a good mix.  Anyway, I forgot that I had asked her to hide my passport (Immigration have a habit of removing them for inspection at the moment and I really couldn't risk that!).  At 4am and whilst packing my bag I remembered that she had it.  Oops.  Ok so the passed out girl had locked her door, was unwakable through knocking and the only option was to break in.  I did so, found her fully clothed and sitting in a chair, dribbling.  Nice.  I eventually woke her up and tried to find out where my passport was but all she wanted to do was "go to a restaurant and eat Frosties".  Oh dear.  I got her the Frosties box on the side of her room and hey-presto, there was my passport!  Hoorah, some coded message there I'm sure!  I placed her on her bed and resumed my packing.  Drama averted.

Anyway, I got to my first stop, KL, wandered around the city a bit and went to a mall (Standard Op's in KL).  I bought myself a webcam and a couple of other bits before heading back to the airport, finally Phuket bound.  The flight was uneventful, although a little delayed due to the downpour just before boarding, and although full of English people, wasn't too rowdy.  Good.  It was perfect right up until the point that I was the last person hanging around the luggage conveyor-belt at the other end looking like a lost sheep.  Oh no..  Oh yes, they had lost my bag.  Now I had a driver waiting outside and no-body to help me sort out my problem.  Long-story-short, they had posted it off to somewhere in Australia and it wouldn't be back until the next day.  Ok, no problem.  I got the the hotel and passed out through tiredness.

Bag arrived late next morning and all was well again.  I stopped stinking and changed my clothes, brushed my teeth and headed to the beach.  Finally I was able to stop, take a look at my new life and realise that it really isn't that bad at all!  Up to this point it had been filled with non-stop training, relocating and the general mountain of things that not only come with starting a new job but also learning to live in a completely different country.  And boy does this country take some getting used to!  Thailand was as I left it last time, a lot more open to westerners, a lot eager to steal my '10 dollar' and full of expats on holiday.  I met up with a couple of Aussie guys from my hotel and hit the town - hard.  There are lots of photos, but unfortunately not on my camera as that mysteriously flew threw the air whilst in mid-shot and did what all of my other cameras have done and parted company with me.  Needless to say it was a lot of fun and my Christmas hat, after being filled with tissue paper, made me stand out like some gigantic Santa-Gnome :)  You know me.  Oh, I also lost my phone - good night huh!

But yeah, life is good.  My schedule works, mostly, like this.  I work 4 hours a day, for 6 days.  Then I get a day off.  After 3 of these rostas I get a week off.  Then to top it all off, that is not even holiday, it's just accumilated days off..  So I basically work 72 hours a month.  What 40 hour weeks was I doing before?!  As a visa requirement I am also required to leave the country every 60 days, paid for by the company - so I plan to see a few of the Asian hot spots while I'm bumming around this part of the world.

Ok, I'm not earning the millions of pounds I was hoping for, but the lifestyle more than makes up for it.. If only I could convince Natwest to call it even life would be sweet :)

So then, after a really good week of catching up with myself and taking a short step back to look at things I was about to endure the 2 day trip to the new base.  Hmmm.  Easy as A, B, C?  No, I didn't think so.  The flight from Phuket was fine, the short stop-over in KL allowed me to replace my camera with a super-duper-never-to-see-a-nightclub one.  KL, another downpour, another delay.  Arriving in Jakarta at 11pm with no phone and no company driver to pick me up I hailed a taxi.  Hmmm..  He got lost despite me giving him the address and having it confirmed by his boss at the taxi-rank.  Anyhow, he tried taking me to some part of this Mega-City I have never seen before.  Argh.  In my very broken Bahasa-Indonesian I managed to explain to him that he was the worst taxi-driver in living history and that the address I gave him was the other side of the city.  After 2 and a half hours of sitting in this stinking car he finally made it.  In total it cost me £8, which the company will pay for, but that's not the point!  Then, to top it all off the company house was full up.  Some guy had missed his outward flight and stayed in what was supposed to be my room.  So I sat up until 4am playing with my new camera, writing some of this and generally being the most bored and angry man in the world.  4am came, driver came, Kris was airport bound again and heading to Borneo.  Phew. (I have dumbed this down a bit, there weere so many crap things that happened but all the small things would seem insignificant unless you were there - and I wish at least one of you was!)

Well I am now in a place called Balikpapan, as mentioned, and this little place is located in the South-East of Borneo, on the Indo side.  However, I am not there at the moment as part of the duties are to do what are called 'tours'.  We spend 5 days flying around the country picking things and people up and dropping them off.  Usual stuff really.  However this means I am about to spend my first New Years Eve in a 'dry' city!  Muslims, you may recall, do not do alcohol (Robin excluded), and as I am living on the footstep of a Mosque in a town where 99.9999% of folk are of that faith, (Me and my friend are the other 0.0001%!), it seems highly unlikely that a beer will be on the menu anywhere close.

Never mind eh.

Ok, so not too many pictures this time as the death of my camera came at a very inconvienient moment, but my new one has had an outing and managed to capture my new pet.  His name is Gregory the Grasshopper.

For those who I wont get to speak to, have a great new year and think of me as you sip that first beer.  If you are even able to think by midnight, then I will already be 9 hours into 2010...!  Enjoy and I will see you in 2010 - maybe!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Last week in Medan.

So then, I have nearly finished with my first base which is/was in Medan.  For those of you who still have no idea where I am then this link will show you...

Medan - Sumatra.

We have been staying in a gated (And guarded) community which is basically made up of expat Chinese folk..  Now they have not got a good reputation here and as a result there are apparently riots quite often where the local Indo folk storm the place!  As a result there is a rather huge flame-thrower (Yes, a gun which fires flames) that sits quite proudly at the entrance.  It was used in anger back in the 90's apparently and ever since the riots have been a lot quiter!  Still, I'm glad to be moving on.  I will probably be back here at some stage as this is a very profitable base for the company and you get a lot of flying hours logged, very quickly.

So I've mentioned the Chinese and apart from them being very insular, they also have illusions of grandure.  This can be seen most evidently in their housing designs..!  I have included some pics of some below.  Massive doesn't even come into it.  They are only dwarfed by the ones that I have seen in Vegas (but I'm sure those ones were made out of plastic anyway).  Seriously though, they are very much of the opinion that showing your wealth is a sign to others that boosts your status.  Inside the houses however you will find no-one, or at best a small Indonesian family sweeping the floors and washing the cars.  I don't actually get it!  Hardly any of these things seem to be occupied, but they still build more - each one bigger and grander than the last.  Sigh.  I think the fact that labour is so cheap here allows them to build a palace for the cost of a shed back home.

So then, my first base has been interesting.  I feel a lot more comfortable with the aircraft, the company and the lifestyle here so I suppose the next thing to do is find out what the next Island has to offer!  As mentioned it will be Borneo, but that's after a week in Phuket for Christmas.  Such a tough life this Piloting.

Some more pics below because I am fed up of writing!

Cheerio and "Merry Kris-tmas" to all of you.


Monday, 7 December 2009

A, B, C - Easy as Satu, Dua, Tiga...

Ok, so I am now flying on the line and part of my duty is to give the passenger brief whilst we are taxying, entering turbulence, coming into land and finally arriving at the terminal.. Sounds fine and I have no problem speaking in public - however, there is a catch.. I have to do it all in Indonesian! So after barely stepping foot in the country I am advising people on how to exit the aircraft during an emergency in what I can only really describe as my own special dialect of Indonesian.  So far so good though I have only heard a few chuckles from the back which means I'm not doing too bad :)

If you even attempt to speak the language here it really goes well for you though..  My vocab is slowly increasing and I can make sure Taxi's (Which really are the only real way of getting from one place to the other here) don't drive me down some random street in search of a freshly skewered rat kebab.. Phew.

Ok, let's talk about food..  One of my favourite topics, but to be quite frank, Indonesian cooking is even testing my hardened stomach.  Today for instance I ate something akin to KFS - Yeah, nearly KFC, but the S bit translates as 'Something'..  I shant even begin to imagine what it really is, but they really take literally the saying that 'everything tastes like Chicken' here!  Monkey anyone?!  No, I'm kiddding - I think/hope!  Generally it's not bad.. But ask too many questions and I think it'll turn you into a vegan.

Hard to explain this country.  I've been here a month now and although it still feels like a bit of a holiday, I am getting a bit of a life together.  There is a MASSIVE difference between rich and poor and while my complex is somewhat of a Chinese super compound, there are people practically living on the side of the road just outside the walls..  However, as I've found before in Thailand, those with the least tend to give you the most..  They never stop smiling and will always go out of their way to help you.

Here is a link to a page which on one hand is quite funny because it is actually true, but on the other is a sad reality of how things are here..

Plastic Fishing Woman

But here is the other side of things..  Where I might spend Christmas day infact!

After the Tsunami

So yeah, the job.  It's great, it really is. I get to see the whole of this country from above and see it in all its glory..  From mist covered mountains during the 6am flights, to blazing sunshine and tropical thunder storms in the afternoons..  Experience is what I was after and here I have definitely found it!

I'm of to Borneo at the end of this month and will be spending New Years Eve in the jungles of that particular Island! I never thought that one would happen thinking back to last years occasion!

I shall leave this now with a few pics of the scenery here in Medan... Enjoy.

Selamat Tingal.