Friday, July 28, 2006

Indonesian Handshake

Work calls me for to be in Jakarta for the last week.
I was there with another colleague for about 5 days conducting seminars for several different companies.

Met up with my ex-secondary school classmate, Rusli Maryono Wardjojo, a local Indonesian Chinese. He was a close friend and a buddy. Rusli offered to show us around his city in his Mercedes Benz.

Everywhere we went in a car, we were able to see the "Terus" man.. I gave them the nickname because everytime Rusli has to park his car in the public, there would be this local Indonesian guy that will say to him "TERUS .. TERUS..". "Terus" means "straight" in the local language. In doing that, he is helping my friend to park the car by directing him into the lot. Not that Rusli's parking skills is bad but it was a norm in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta to receive these kind of pseudo-valet service.

And whenever we have to leave the location and drive somewhere else, the "Terus" man will appear again, helping to stop the incoming traffic so as to allow the Mercedes to reverse out of the lot... Of course, this will also mean that the "Terus" man will be giving the "Terus" command to my friend while he stops the incoming traffic..

After which, Rusli's hand will extend out of the window with a "mandatory" tip ranging from 2000-4000 rupiahs (local currency) for the "Terus" man. It's a handshake that will transfer the notes from the driver's hand to the "Terus" man's hand. Rusli tells me this is known as the "INDONESIAN HANDSHAKE".

Everywhere we park the car in a public place, there will be a "Terus" man around, all eager to assist you. These "Terus" men are not employed by government agencies nor officials from the transport authorities.. There are merely locals whom claim the territory and self operate as a "Terus" man.. Though lucrative as it is, and very much territorial in nature, it is also illegal. However, due to the amiable nature of the locals, there doesn't seem to be any gangland wars over these territories for the "Terus" people and there aren't also drivers whom were unwilling to part with their 2000-4000 rupiahs for the service rendered by the "Terus" man. Both parties are happy and there are no conflicts of borders and territories.

It is also due to opportunities like these that still draw villagers from faraway rural areas of Java and Sumatra to come to the capital city of Jakarta. Flooding the city with unemployment and the ever increasing slum areas. It makes me wonder if most of the jobs taken by these rural migrants are not legal or if they are mostly piecemeal work, does the high unemployment rate still stand true?

Anyway, if I were to be stranded in Jakarta, I'd definitely wanna be a "Terus" man, given my limited vocabulary of the local language, I think I'd be able to make it.
"Terus, Kiri, Kanan and Terima Kasih".

Some other interesting facts of Indonesia

In Singapore, we usually address a local malay as "Abang" or "bang" which means "Elder brother". In Jakarta, the locals are commonly addressed as "Mas" which means "Young Men of Java".

Batavia is another old name for Jakarta when it was still a Dutch Colony.

Extract from Wikipedia
Batavia : Dutch settlement on the island of Java. It later became the capital of the Dutch East Indies colony.

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