With regards to making my way around, after five years living in Jakarta, I thought I had it figured out. Feeling quite capable and confidant about riding in a taxi--many of our friends take taxi’s everywhere—I had Sugiman, our Friday driver, drop me at the SOS Medical Clinic, and continue on his way to the airport to meet our friend, Justus’s flight. Justus and his sister Trinity are visiting us for a few weeks. While they are here, we are flying to Kalimantan where we’ve organized a weekend-long boat trip to view the orangutan in the wild. Although malaria is not much of a risk, the trip organizers suggest participants take malaria prevention medication. As expected, I zipped into the clinic, and a half-hour later zipped back out, Malarone in hand, and asked the car-call attendant to hail a taxi.
Blue Bird is the preferred Taxi company in Jakarta, because the drivers are supposed to be trained and know their way around. Borrowing on Rick’s line from Casablanca, of all the drivers in all the taxis in all of Jakarta, I had to get the one driver who didn’t have a clue where I wanted to go.
In basic, gramatically incorrect but servicable Indonesian, I rattled off my street, nearby main roads, the neighborhood, even Pasar Mingu, a large traditional market near my home (which every Jakartan knows well. It's like saying at the base of the Eiffel Tour in Paris). He shook his head at every possibility. Was he saying no, that he didn't understand me? Or no, that he didn't know those places?
“Ask the guard,” I suggested, pointing out the window to the main opening the clinic gate.
The driver looked back at me, “Where is this place?” He asked. He didn’t know where he had picked me up?
“SOS Medical Clinic” I said. I felt my eyebrows rise and tried to keep the duh…out of my voice.
He nodded, and then asked the guard something, but whatever answer he got, it was not satisfactory.
“Tidak apa apa,” I said, “no problem, I’ll call my house. My maid can tell you where I live.” So I pulled out my handphone, called Rusnati, and asked her to give him directions.
The driver pulled the taxi to the side of the road, took the phone and listened for a second before turning back to me.
“What road is this?” he asked.
Needless to say, it was a longer, winding road home...