We’ve been shopping for another second-hand car lately (am I supposed to
call it “pre-owned”?).  I find this an odious task under the best of
circumstances, but it is made all the more so when I don’t know the
conventions of such an interaction, have no idea what is a standard feature
vs. an extra, and, of course, don’t speak the language.  Our new driver,
Bachtiar, has applied himself to the task of combing the newspapers and
contacting would-be sellers.  He arranged on Friday to have a gentleman
come to the house so we could see his car.  It wasn’t until he arrived that I
learned that this was highly unusual.  Somehow Bachtiar managed to get
one other owner to do the same the following day – and these folks had to
drive from nearly an hour away.
I also spent a few hours driving around in Bachtiar’s micro-van and looking
at other cars for sale by their owners.  That his van was neither roomy nor
air-conditioned was inconsequential; the bad part was leaving the window
down in the stinky traffic.  The busses are foul enough, but particularly
offensive are the bajaj – small, orange, three-wheeled mini-taxis that trail
noxious plumes as they whine through the streets.
As it happens, I’ve learned we can get the best deals from within the expat
community.  There are enough people ending their assignments – especially
during the summer – that we will surely be able to find a meticulously
maintained and relatively new vehicle for several thousand dollars less than
on the “open market.”

In addition to Bachtiar, I’ve had a few other co-conspirators in this hunt for a
car.  We have come to know each of our three guards that rotate 24 hours
throughout the week.  Each of them seems keenly interested whenever
there is discussion or inspection of a potential car.  One afternoon I stepped
out onto the front steps and engaged in another car-related discussion with
Bachtiar and the guard, Jevri (pronounced “Jeffrey”).  We stood, mulling
things over for a brief while, and then I sat on the top stop.  I didn’t realize it
as they did it, but they had soon both dropped into a squat to continue the
conversation.  I suddenly recalled a societal rule here that one tries always
to keep one’s head lower than the most important individual in the setting.  
After a moment I casually stood back up.  They soon did the same.  I’ll try to
keep that one in mind.
In a similar vein, we have become used to the sight of visiting workers and
deliverymen padding around the house in their stocking feet.  I have to feel
pretty familiar with someone before I kick my shoes off in their home, but
here one does not enter a home before removing the shoes.  I’ll have to
investigate the custom more thoroughly to find out just how widespread it is.  
I think it is the way of things in most Asian countries and may also be a
feature of Islamic societies.  Call us crass, ethno-centric, or uncouth, but we
still stride right into our own house fully shod and keep ’em on for most of
the day.

We’ve gotten the school calendar and learned that Fall Break is set for 29
October – 6 November.  Apparently, like Spring Break in the U.S., many folks
will jet away on adventures at that time, making airline seats scarce and
costly for those who haven’t planned ahead.  As such, Alissa sent me a list
of places she had quickly looked into as possible Fall Break destinations for
us.  Imagine my delight when I learned that the list included Phuket, Seim
Reap (in Cambodia – home to the famous Angkor Wat temple complex),
Shanghai, Beijing, Perth, Istanbul, New Zealand, and Zurich.  Imagine my
dismay, after a bit more research, when I learned how many people had
beaten us to the planning stage, thereby making most of these destinations
prohibitively expensive.  Ah well, we now know how far into the future we
must look.  Besides, we’ll just go to Bali.  Not a bad fall-back, I reckon.
Javalogue 5: 16-21 July 2005
Downtown Street Vendors
They stroll casually amongst the
traffic selling nuts, fried noodle
things that look like Funyuns,
and many mysterious items.
Taxis, Motorcycles, and
Street Vendors
This is the standard view when
crawling through town during
crush hour.
the Javalogue
Toyota Kijang
This is the most prevalent
vehicle on the road in Jakarta.
I snapped this picture while
shopping for our second car.
Same car
Okay, I'm looking to fill up some
space until I get some good
street scenes.  Anyway, we're
told that even after three years
one can often recoup nearly
100% of the purchase price.
Not the same car
That's Bachtiar, our driver,
appraising the texture of the
front fender of another
potential purchase.  This one,
however, only had seatbelts for
the driver and front passenger.