Sunday, March 01, 2009

I picked up a metal chair

Photo by Jonathan McIntosh,

Later that afternoon, when I visited Min at Doctor Bahari’s clinic, I got talking to two of the nurses. One was a moderately good-looking, middle-aged female and the other was a big, muscular and moustachioed male.

They told me about a twice weekly school for backward children, run at the relatively nearby Jiwa Hospital.

"I’d like Min to go to the school," I said. "How much will it cost?"

The two nurses took me into a side office to discuss prices.

"He’ll need to go on my motorbike," said the male nurse. "It’ll cost one hundred thousand rupiahs each trip."

"That’s crazy," I said, tired and furious after a long and frustrating day. I reckoned one hundred thousand rupiahs was around £30 sterling. "It should only cost around three thousand rupiahs a month for the schooling. A taxi would be about three thousand one way."

"One hundred thousand or he won’t get in," insisted the male nurse.

"He’s a poor street child who’d benefit from a bit of training.," I said, hoping for some sympathy. "I’ll pay twenty thousand."

"One hundred thousand."

I wanted some physical expression of my anger but decided it would be unwise to punch the muscular man. He was much bigger than me. I picked up a metal chair and slammed it down hard on the floor. It made a very loud noise. Neither of the nurses looked particularly moved or concerned, but Min looked white and scared. I thought I had better forget the schooling, calm down and make some kind of peace.

"I’m sorry to get stressed," I said. "Jakarta can be a difficult place sometimes."


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