My new boss Gary kicks his feet onto the dash board, wrestles a cigarette from the pack with his teeth and lights up.
Late night inner city Jakarta and life festers like an open wound as we make our way through Indonesia’s crumbling urban decay.
Gary flicks cigarette ashes onto the floor.
Drowned out above the angry traffic I holler, “You’ve been teaching here how long?”
“Too long.” Gary hacks loudly and then spits out the window.
The driver peers at me from the rear view mirror, says something in Indonesian to Gary and they both laugh.
“Your place,” says Gary pointing towards an dilapidated looking residential compound.
Through a tangled mess of traffic we squeeze our way towards my new home where we’re interrogated by a toothless security guard. Squinty eyed he walks towards us, peeps his head into the van, looks me over, asks a few questions and then flags us through.
Hypnotized by our gleaming headlights, two rats, the size of my house cats, jump for cover in an open drain as we slowly journey down a still suburban Jakarta street.
“A Teacher Welcome pack.” Gary turns around with a grocery store bag, I look inside: noodles, a brown banana, apple, bar of soap—
The driver throws the van in park.
Gary unbuckles his safety belt. “I’ve got you sharing with a Brit.”
Anxious to settle in, I quickly throw back the sliding door.
“He’ll get your suitcase,” says Gary.
I step over yellowed newspapers and discarded overseas waste as I follow Gary up the walkway.
Momentarily struggling with the key, Gary finally opens up.
“Well, welcome home!”
I step inside into what can only be described as suburban Jakarta circa 1965.
Week one at work and I’ve discovered Gary’s guilty pleasure, ‘cheeky drinks before nine.’ Where as at home I’ve uncovered every type of pet peeve one can have when sharing one’s surroundings: toe nails on the coffee table, dirty pots in the sink, and a feral house cat named Zig who claws the couch and pisses everywhere.
A chance encounter on, ‘Stu’s Chinese Adventure Blog,’ makes me wonder how a burly ‘All American’ man discovered a passion for teaching in a country that eats— dogs? I mean how could you eve—
Cheap booze and the stench of cigarettes infiltrates my room. Spinning around I find a red faced Gary supporting himself against the door frame of my classroom. His neck tie is crooked, his shirt is peeping through his open fly and his pants are hiked up way above his penny loafers. “You!” Strands of saliva whip about. “N—eed , I mean, I need n—ext week’s lesson pp—lan!“
“I’ve got another class and I was ju—“
“I don’t care!” I watch him sway and I find myself wondering, what‘s the local equivalent to 911?
“Oh!” He burps. “Come for bee—rs after work!” Smiling, he tries winking at me before turning around to stumble down the hall.
I turn around, panic at the possibility of sexual harassment and cringe at the thought of spending one year in the dilapidated suburbs of Jakarta.
“Anyone up for a pint?” says the Harry Potter wannabe British teacher as he walks into the staffroom with an arm full of books. Gary trudges in from behind, wreaking of cigarettes and unwashed clothes.
“Gary I –“
He throws his text books down, settles into his swivel chair, runs his fingers through his hair and sighs.
He peeps his head out and motions me in. “Take a seat. What is it?”
My heart feels like it’s about to explode as I envision Gary going ‘ape shit’ the minute he reads my resignation letter.
“So, the last ten day—”
“Look, I’ve got another class.” He points to the clock on the wall with his pen.
I slide the letter across the table.
He picks it up and reads.
“Ok.” He bites his lip continuing. “So, I take it today is your last day?”
I nod slowly.
“Well Jacqui,” he gets up, straightens his tie and extends a hand across the table. “It’s been a pleasure.”
Slightly weary, I reciprocate.
He grabs his books, smiles at me and then disappears into a hallway full of hormonal teens.
Dumbfounded, I walk out of his office.
“Join us for a pint mate?”
I stare at the Brit, sit down slowly and then it hits me.
“No, because— I quit.”