Saturday, January 3, 2009

A passage to India

I had the best Christmas - now - reality - definitely a downer. I've done some art work - sewed some and had some of my designs printed on Spoonflower. I was enchanted - oh the cleverness of me as P pan would say. I got two books on the Indian Raj for christmas. I was a companion/victim of my old dad and we read many a book together and then had our little reviews. We ranged throughout Africa, India and the English/American experiment. We tried to be scholarly but usually ended in an argument viz a viz socialism/communism/capitalism. I could not tolerate a system which sought to take $100 from the rich and then distribute it so that everyone - including the formerly rich - had a penny. I've always thought communism was a system in which the undeserving got to shove a stick in the eye of the diserving. All those sick block monitors reporting on their neighbors. And socialists breeding a needy sickly class of gimme's or I'll sue you's. Ah, too deep you say for this little soufle of a website.

Well the thing i loved reading about the first raj book, Women of the Raj by MacMillan - was that in many aspects, it coincided with the experiences I had in Indonesia running up against the State Department. No sooner had the sleep been wiped from our new comer eyes than our near neighbor - a lady born and bred in the State Department - bounded over our tropical hedge to inspect the new conscripts. Nose aquiver, she asked what my husband's rank was because that rank would denote how many bookcases we were allowed. She imparted such inestimable knoweledge that if I were in anyway unhappy in my situation and it could be attributed to the state department - I could write a letter of complaint - it would not in any way alleviate my unhappy situation - but it would serve to act as a cumulative indictment in the file of the official whom i chose to attribute my unhappiness. Eventually, it was assumed, a thick file of censorious revues would force a change in position for incompetent official.

Was i unhappy - well not with Indonesia - but with the very state department that held my fate in its flabby and ineffectual hand. We were sent over as envoys of the USA, but as advisors to the Indonesian Gov/t. As such, State departmant wished to foist on the Indonesians any expenses regarding housing, upkeep and my children's education. Upon our arrival, we were treated much like a Rumanian Refugee in Putin's court. Games were played at our expense regarding who would incur expenses down to appliances - but most importantly the children's education. Some bright light threw down the gauntlet and said - we will not allow (my) children to attend the Jakarta International School. Leave at once, says I. Backtrack say they. To be fair to State, they were apparently operating on a 25$ budget in a 1,000$ world. They just simply could not afford to take on a family of 5. Besides the last guy holding my husband's position was so much fun and didn't have any chillun. he was a great fourth for bridge - marvelous as a double for tennis and, though deemed immenitely replaceable by his own hires who wished to rid the role books on which he appeared - a great favorite with the expat community in which he had made himself indispensible within the social doings. Little did it matter to the denizens of the American Club, that jobwise, a change was deemed necessary.

And so, we arrived. We fought the school fight and won - fought membership into the American Club and won but they had me licked in the appliance department. State would not find us lodgings but they would impose their heiarchy rules on the lodgings that the Indonesians would provide for us. So be it. I walked the neighborhoods and found a perfectly charming house in an Indonesian neighborhood, alas, without air conditioning. Still we were turned down so many times by State that we grabbed it. The bedrooms were air conditioned and the landlord was a sweet Indonesian. The back wall of our dining room was a waterfall with a fish pond. I loved it.

The landlord provided us with a washer/dryer. A product of Italy - I can only think to humble the Italian housewife. The wash cycle was anemic and half hearted and the dryer simply meant that your clothes were whirled about but that no real heat or air was applied to them. Consequently, we all had pink eye as a result of mildewed wash towels and bath towels. The monsoon season prevented any air drying of clothing or bedding and towels.

I decided to appeal to the side of State Department that actually could identify. I laid out the course of events we had endured and my plea was heard. A kind lady official, saw to it that the children were properly enroled in JIS, that we were allowed to partake of the hamburgers and ceasar salads at the American Club, and that we had a proper, correctly working washer and dryer. What did I care that I was lower than low on the State Department ranks. I had seen their number and were pretty sure of what stuff they were made.

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