Today I am grateful for Harti Hadisoemo. Now there’s a name you don’t flip off of your tongue every day in America! Harti is a friend of mine whom I haven’t seen since I left Jakarta, nearly twenty years ago. We emailed for a while way back when and reconnected through the years a few times. Then the other day, out of the blue, Harti sent me an email reply from 2011, the last time we “spoke”. Yes!
We emailed back and forth a bit, but it was 10:30 pm here and 9:30 am the next day there, so she had to get to work and I was getting sleepy. Now we are connected on Facebook and she has also connect to the Heartprints blog at WordPress, so I’m sure she’ll see this. I know she’s giggling already.
Harti was one of the first people I met when we moved to Jakarta, Indonesia. She worked at Le Meridian Hotel, right downtown and was my first real friend in Jakarta. We stayed at the hotel for three months, so she was pretty much “it” for me for a long time. Harti speaks English but struggles with the correct way to write, so when I saw her working on something I jumped in to help edit. I could tease her and that was fun. “Hey, If I’m going to do all of your work for you, then you should pay me big money. Cash US dollars.” I joked. So she did. I wish it was that easy here! I worked for Harti for the entire three years I lived in Jakarta. She introduced me to all of the hotel staff and they treated me like a big-shot. I still remember a restaurant host, Ah-Ah, guiding me away from some of the spicy food on the buffet. “Not for your, um, how you say. . .” he said, waving his hand in a circle in front of his stomach. I got it. And listened.
Often we would meet for lunch and I would either edit on the spot or take papers home with me. Sometimes my red pen made so many corrections and I moved copy around so much that I had to type it over. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t often, maybe two or three times a month and I’d work a few hours on each copy. The pay was good. I even got a raise! (She’ll laugh at that, too.) More important than the pay was feeling necessary, like I was contributing and it was fun to see the results of my work all over the hotel. I became an expert on the Lemon Grass restaurant and Salmon Promotions! Whopee!
When Harti moved to a different hotel, the Ciputra (Chip-ooo-tra) much farther away and closer to the airport, it was not as easy to meet for lunch. She would send me restaurant promotion pages, or letters and other copy by courier. Yes, this was before email! When I was done, usually the next day, I would take a taxi to the hotel to deliver the papers and we’d have lunch. Remember, I had a lot of time on my hands and taxis were cheap.
One time I did this during the early days of the fasting month, Ramadan. I couldn’t get the usual expat cab so I hopped in a traditional, junk box with no air conditioning. Fasting during Ramadan is not just for food, but water, too. I don’t know how they did it living in the jungle heat of Jakarta, but they did, except my taxi driver wasn’t handling it so well. He was distracted and his erratic driving must have irritated the motorcycle driver following us. The motorcycle deliberately ran into the taxis bumper. The taxi moved up. Motorcycle hit again. . .about four times. This infuriated the taxi driver so much he leaped out of the car, in the middle of traffic and went back to yell at the motorcycle guy. I had been in Jakarta for a long time by then and was going to wait it out. . .until I saw the taxi driver reach into his trunk for a baseball bat. The motorcycle started to weaved out through traffic trying to get out of range of the swinging bat. I always kept the fare in my hand to be prepared for this kind of thing, so I threw my money on his front seat and got outta there, walking the rest of the way to the hotel. It was only three blocks, but I was still a puddle of sweat. Harti made sure everyone fussed over me, which usually got annoying but felt good this time. I had towels and drinks and pats of sympathy surrounding me. After our lunch, when the work was done, she had the car from the hotel take me home. It wasn’t ALL difficult in Jakarta. There were a few perks.
Re-connecting with Harti made me realize what a huge impact our time in Jakarta had on me and I am grateful. Life, for us, is described as before Indonesia, or after Indonesia. It changed me in ways I couldn’t have dreamed possible. Harti is now semi-retired because she is helping her brother-in-law care for his children since her sister passed away, but she still works in travel. If you’re headed to Indonesia, let me know and I’ll hook you up! (There is your commercial, Harti, so be quiet!) In the picture she is wearing a traditional Javanese kebaya. Isn’t she gorgeous? Indonesians don’t age! Too bad for me! Sampai jumpa lagi! (See you later.)