Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Pembantus, Panic rooms and Creeping Carpets

We have a carpet running the length of our hallway in the *panic room that slowly migrates towards the wall. I usually take notice when its creeping causes it to bunch at the edges as it presses into the crook where the wall meets the floor. When it reaches this stage I simply move it back into the middle of the hallway, briefly ponder this peculiar behavior, and then get on with things. It is odd and here are some possible theories: it has something to do with the strange existence of the panic room itself; Wayan our *pembantu likes to move our carpet in small increments towards the wall; centrifugal, gravitiational or some other earth force is “pulling” our carpet due to our proximity to the bulging equator; Indonesian feng shui type of thing in combination with one or all of the above; or perhaps our cat Pixie just goes nuts in the house when we are gone. I have considered setting up a video camera but that would take effort of a degree I am not willing to expend. So for the time being the mystery of the moving carpet will remain one of many curiosities that make living in Indonesia such an intriguing venture.

*panic room We live in housing paid for by the school where we teach. It is adequate, actually quite nice, but it does have a few oddities. These peculiarities can be explained by the fact that the apartments used to be school offices or Rudi the school engineer responsible for the remodeling was a very creative fellow. Whatever the reason we have a narrow room/hallway connecting the dining, kitchen spare bedroom area to the living room, master bedroom area. But it is not your ordinary hallway. It once had very solid doors at each of its ends until the previous apartment dwellers removed them because they serve absolutely no purpose (unless indeed it is a panic room). The only furnishing originally in the room/hallway was a giant wall map of the city of Jakarta – the type you might expect to see in strategic planning room of Interpol Indonesia ... or in a panic room ... perhaps there was more to Rudi the “engineer” than met the eye.

*pembantu Indonesia is a “maid” culture. Most people of a certain economic level have a variety of hired help from maid (s) to nannies to drivers, guards, gardeners, household managers and such. More often than not you are responsible for the well being of your hired help and in the maid’s case this usually involves housing. A pembantu is a live in maid. We had one last year and it took some getting used to. First off, just having someone work for us in such a capacity was odd and having this person live in our house was exceptionally odd. But it is the norm; we actually did not really have a choice. The school provided the house and Nyoman, our pembantu, was part of the housing package. This year Wayan lives in a room between several of our apartments. She does not live with us and attends to the cooking, cleaning, and washing of our household and that of another couple, the Sheas, living in the campus apartments ... which explains why Mr. Shea is wearing my shirt to school today.

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