My grandma’s brother has left Indonesia many years ago. He then lived in Hong Kong and later in Canada. Now he’s visiting Indonesia. And this is how the culture shock begins….

One day, we were on drive to Sogo. Sitting behind the steering wheel, I gave all my attention to the street, full of cars, motorcycles, public transports, and pedestrians. At that moment, he asked curiously, “It’s very hard driving in Indonesia, isn’t it?” I couldn’t find any argument to disagree, besides, since the first time I drove a car, I felt so. I replied shortly,” Yes.” He said, “There are so many motorcycles! (I think, “Don’t forget the tricycles and public transports too.”) And looks like people don’t care about the rules. You know, in Canada, there are no motorcycles. The roads are good and people drive with manner.”

On the other day, I drove him to the airport. He was going to have a short trip to Singapore to renew his visa. There are some ways to reach the airport, and I chose to go from Tropodo route instead of A.Yani. So we went by narrow and damaged streets, full of vehicles and people. It wasn’t a nice drive, of course. He asked to my grandma, “Isn’t there any highway to reach the airport, just like in other countries?”

But the biggest disaster happened at the airport. First, we were too early. The check-in counter hasn’t been opened yet. So we waited and waited. It was about 1.00 pm and the officer said that it will be opened on 1.15. In fact, they opened on 1.30. My grandma thought that he would need help inside, for he is a foreigner and he is old. So, I accompanied him to the counter with a special pass from the airport duty manager. The check-in process was smooth. We walked to the airport-tax counter.

It was weird. They were closed. I thought that maybe they forget to change the label, but not. They were really closed. A western man passed and looked at the x-banner informing that the airport tax goes up (I remember that it was 75k, and now it’s 150k). He joked, “Oh, they really need more money to fight the terrorist, don’t they?” There were already 3 men queuing up in front of us, trying to wait patiently. I was not as patient as they are. After standing like a fool for about 10 minutes, seeing some officers just walked casually without helping us, I decided to ask someone in charge. I walked to the airport-tax counter for the domestic departure, and asked him with a little patience and courtesy left in me, “Excuse me Sir, when will the airport-tax counter for the international departure be opened? We have waited so long. See? The queue has been long enough.” He answered, “They usually open on 2.00. I don’t really know, we’re not in the same division.”

I told everyone about it, and an Indonesian girl queuing behind me said, “It never happened before. It is the first time.”

And my grandma’s brother said, “I never been in this kind of situation. I have visited other countries and they were never been like this. If this happens in other countries, people will complain.”

I tried to joke (which is not funny at all),”Yeah, but this is Indonesia. Indonesian people are very patient.”

Thanks God, the counter opened 5 minutes before 2.00 pm. But, we still have to wait again. The fiscal-checking and immigration counters were still closed. There was an officer inside the fiscal-checking counter, but he refused to open the counter, because, “See? The immigration counter is still closed.” So we waited again…. just for a very short checking process that was not worth the waiting.

As an Indonesian, I was embarrassed with those inconvenient experiences my grandma’s brother had here. I’m sure that if you’ve been leaving your home country so long, all you expect will be advancement. It’s not always about the buildings, the facilities, but also the people. You’ll hope that people will drive with manner, that they will be more discipline, that they will work better. It’s OK if there are so many damaged roads here, when people can drive with manner. It’s OK that our airports are not as magnificent as Changi or Suvarnabhumi, if the officers are highly dedicated to their job. I think that it’s not the physical-building that matters, the character-building is somehow most important. It’s normal that we don’t have marvelous buildings, roads, highways here in Indonesia, since we’re still in economic crisis. But it’s much more devastating that we can’t have good manner, discipline, and high responsibility. Don’t you think so?