This earthquake business is nuts. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has declared a three-day national mourning period for the victims. In our apartment complex we saw the Indonesian flag at half-mast–we thought that was only a Western thing, but apparently not. There is still no word on what the situation is for many villages in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces, and no news is not good news in this situation. The news we saw this morning suggests that the worst damage anywhere, though, is on the Andaman and Nicobar islands, some low-lying Indian islands south of Bangladesh. Tens of thousands of people missing.
But again, business as usual in Jakarta, although things seem less frantic than normal because a lot of people seem to be taking time off for the Christmas holiday. We are, yet again, involved in immigration haggling. Yesterday we went to the Indonesian Academy of Sciences to get a letter to deliver to the immigration office to ask for yet another visa extension. Strike one: the only person in the Indonesian government able to authorize such a letter was on vacation. We’re about to go try again. Can you imagine this level of incompetence? It’s like the one person who issues driver’s licenses at the DMV calls in sick, so no one can get a driver’s license that day. "That probably happens here too," JM mutters.
Primus has a song called "DMV," and in its lyrics, you might replace "DMV" with "kantor imigrasi" (immigration office).
"I’ve been to hell, I spell it, it’s kantor imigrasi. Anyone who’s been there knows precisely what I mean. I’ve sat there and I’ve waited and choked back the urge to scream…"