Posted in Rant

A Hotel Quarantine Adventure, Part Two: The Wait

My family’s journey back to Indonesia was roughly uneventful. Save for the sparsely populated airports because of the pandemic, it wasn’t any different from the usual intercontinental flight. Pandemic-related procedures after landing were also quite painless. We prepared all documents before our departure. My wife and I made sure of that. So we went from booth after booth with relative ease. Luggage pickup was a bit of a wait, but it wasn’t burdensome. Being that our stuff came from Buffalo, NY, that was to be expected.

After we collected all our luggage, it was time to head for our pickup.

Next up was customs. We were lugging around five enormous suitcases and a couple of smaller bags. We looked like a prime target for a customs check. But thanks to papers from the consulate, it was a breeze.

That added to the string of good fortune, which made me feel rather invincible.

After customs, we had to walk through a hallway until we reach an exit on our left. Beyond that exit, I saw a lone army officer sitting down. He had the same look on his face as the US National Guard officers that handed disembarking passengers forms at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Since I already gave my forms to inspectors much earlier, I assumed he will usher us to our pickup. So I courteously greeted him and signalled that I have a booking on hand. To my slight surprise, he politely told us to keep going. So I thanked him and walked on.

After walking several steps, we arrived at an area that had many seats and several booths. Police officers manned two of them. They would ask to see proof of your hotel booking. Being certain that somebody would come from the hotel, I asked my family to sit and wait. While my phone was not working, they assured me before the flight that there would be someone from the hotel.

In the meantime, I looked around and saw some people holding signs. I scanned each of them, hoping to find the words “Jupiter Hotel” printed on one board. After less than a minute, I couldn’t find any. In fact, none of them was from any of the hotels that I inquired about before booking!

What we saw were a bunch of white people with surfboards, one chubby kid talking to his parents who couldn’t bring him home because of quarantine restrictions, and a bunch of travellers who were ostensibly waiting to be picked up. Seeing that there were armed guards, I thought it wise to keep waiting.

Not long after, somebody wearing a formal batik shirt came. In my hopefulness, I sighed a relief. But I got happy too early, as the guy came to pick up the surfers. They were going to a hotel with more stars than the one we booked. So we continued to wait.

Through some eavesdropping and careful observation, I discerned that the other passengers Who were still there were actually going to the same hotel.

Blimey!

There’s six of us, each with at least 2 pieces of luggage. Now I remember specifically telling the hotel people we were going to bring five large suitcases. I also asked whether there would be other guests coming in, and they said yes. Now seeing that the Jupiter is a four-star hotel. I assumed they had prepared something.

A batik-wearing official from the airport came up to me and asked which hotel I booked. To which I answered, “The Jupiter Hotel.” “The one at Protocol Road?” he asked. To clarify, I said yes. He then opened Wazzup and showed me the contact details of a guy named Goofy. With a smile, I said, “Thanks, but no, thank you. I can’t call without an internet connection. My sim card is foreign.” In hindsight, it was an unnecessarily smug thing to say. He shrugged and went on his way.

Then I heard someone call out, “Jupiter, Old Town!” I turned my head round to find the source of that voice. A well-dressed lady walked into the waiting area. “She might be our pickup!” I thought. But I hesitated to answer. For one, I’m sure that the Jupiter is in South Town, not Old Town. So I kept my cool and looked to see who might answer. Not long, a little bloke stood up. He showed her a print-out of his hotel booking. She looked at the piece of paper and confirmed it. “Right you are, Sir,” she said. “Let me take you to the car.” So he took his suitcases and went along with her.

Before they got to the exit booth, a tall, angry-looking man approached them. “Are you from the Jupiter Hotel in South Town?” he asked. “No, Sir, I’m from the one in Old Town,” she answered. His eyebrows furled. Seeing this, the lady said, “Don’t worry, Sir. A colleague of mine from South Town will be right with you.”

The man’s eyebrows furled even further. “I already tried to call him. He didn’t answer. Can’t you do anything?”

With a straight face, she apologised, “I’m sorry, Sir. That hotel is under different management.” And with that, off they went.

The man sighed.

I sighed as well.

Nobody wants to be marooned. So he called the hotel. I thought it was sensible. Sadly, no answer. And then he did the next thing sensible thing: he called the hotel manager. It was a relief that she answered. Sadly, it was short-lived one because she told him to wait.

I understood she couldn’t do much at that point because she already sent out a guy. Sending another one wouldn’t do much good. She could also call Levi and tell him off. But there’s no guarantee if she will, or if that will expedite things.

The tall, angry man had his phone out so loud that even I could hear the conversation from metres away. Though mentally, I thanked him. Some news is better than no news.

And the wait went on for several more minutes until the man dialled Goofy again. This time, the person picked up. The hotel guest was visibly irate. While the curse words were uttered, I reckoned the loudness of his voice could wake up the dead. This time, I couldn’t hear what was said over the phone. From what I could make up, there was an apology, a notification that he was in Shrubville motorway, a promise to arrive within 10 minutes, and some more apologies. Keep in mind that this was coming from one guy. So that there might be only one vehicle picking up six guest and a shit-ton of luggage. But again, some news is better than no news. Additionally, I’ve had a long flight. Thus, I relied on the hotel’s professionalism and hoped for the best… even though they were looking less professional by the minute.

So we all waited for ten minutes. Goofy was a no-show. Naturally, the tall & angry bloke called again. He was even crosser. “Shrubville motorway? Ten more more minutes?” he shouted. “You said you were there ten minutes ago! It shouldn’t take you that long to get here!” The bloke’s right. The airport is in Shruvbille. Once you’re on the motorway, it should only take you only ten minutes to get to the airport (barring traffic or accidents).

Sure enough, ten minutes went by and Goofy finally showed up. While he looked quite spick and span, he looked as if he hadn’t slept. Goofy immediately went up to the bloke who called him. It was as if he instinctively knew who he was talking to. He apologising profusely before even saying hello. As Goofy was about to give a reason for his tardiness, the big bloke stopped him. Only the words, “Last night,” came out of Goofy’s mouth. As the angry bloke told Goofy to get things over with, Goofy did just that. He took all our passports and went up to the counter that’s manned by a policeman. A short while later, an army officer gathered us around and took a photo of us for documentation. After Goofy signed a piece of paper, they let us go.

Things were looking up. But I was still wondering what the pickup vehicle would be.

As we all were following Goofy, I noticed a couple of airport taxi bays. Each with a couple of cabs waiting for passengers. I thought it was odd because I thought each aeroplane passenger would have to be picked up by their hotel for mandatory quarantine.

It hadn’t dawned on me that these cabs were part of the “pickup” until Goofy led all of us to one of the premium taxi bays at the airport terminal. He told us to wait as he went to the airport taxi desk.

There were three black vans parked. I didn’t say a word. On one hand, I was sort of glad that Goody didn’t bring a bus. That would be less comfortable, and we’d have to be in the same vehicle with other passengers. I don’t want to sound snobby here, but I remember paying for a premium pickup service. And travelling with a toddler is an additional concern. So, seeing three vans were a bit of a relief. I figured that’s one van for my family, one van for the cross bloke, and one for this kid. But on the other hand, I got worried that all of my family’s luggage wouldn’t fit in one van.

As they loaded each suitcase into the boot of the vans, my worry became reality. One suitcase had to be placed in another van… it was the van which the angry man was riding in.

I sighed.

After seeing the seating of my wife and son, I went over to the cross man’s van. I apologised he had to travel with one of our suitcases and asked him to kindly watch over it while he’s in the car. He obliged. I thanked him and went back to our van. After fastening seatbelts, we departed for the hotel.

It was a ride like any other. The roads weren’t as busy as usual (we’re in a pandemic, after all). But it made for an interesting conversation with the cabbie.

My wife and I told him about what had happened. The cabbie shrugged. With a hint of a smile, he told us hotel liaisons like Goofy works in roughly 12-hour shifts: a night shift starting from 6 PM and a day shift from 6 AM. When liaisons say that they are “on the way”, it usually means that they were just getting ready after taking a nap at a mosque near the airport. I suddenly remember Goofy saying, “Last night.”

Gosh!

Goofy might have been overworked!

The cabbie went on to say that the Jupiter Hotel at South Town was actually new. It started operating in the third quarter of 2019. “Well, that makes sense”, I thought. Being a new hotel, they might not be up to snuff. Though, it’d be rather unprofessional of them.

After about thirty minutes, we arrived at the hotel. As I got off the van, I found that the van that the angry man rode in had arrived first. Thus, the suitcase that went with him in that van was already lumped with some other luggage that was on that van.

I sighed. After that morning’s experience, sorting out luggage got added to the list of things to do before I can get some rest. But I thought, “At least, we’ve arrived at the hotel.”

Oh, little did I know!

Posted in Rant

A Hotel Quarantine Adventure, Part One: Choices

At first, I thought I’d make a short story out of my self-isolation a.k.a. hotel quarantine experience. I planned on narrating it in a way that is both truthful to my actual experience and seemingly fanciful enough that it won’t be libel. To that end, I thought of doing some worldbuilding and tying it into the fictional universe I’m constructing right now. But that’s too much. And I figured that making up hotel names as proxy would suffice. So here goes…

Continue reading “A Hotel Quarantine Adventure, Part One: Choices”
Posted in Rant

Not the Right Kind of Stiffy

I think that my writing is stiff. I feel my words don’t flow as well as I think they should. Sometimes I read the thing that I just wrote and am aghast at my choice of words.

Perhaps this is not a malady, but merely a case of first draft blues. If it is, “giving myself permission to suck” isn’t working for me. Frustration has been with me like an old friend, and I don’t think that my choice of language is why it stayed.

I suppose that one way to rid it is through sheer force of will. “Practice makes perfect,” seem to require the ten thousand hours I don’t seem to have or want to spend. Jotting down words has not been that fun for me. Either it has stopped being fun, or that I simply have little fuel in the absence of a nemesis. Perhaps I should make a nemesis of myself, of my doubts and my shortcomings. Perhaps I’m also cynical about making a foe of oneself as an effort to challenge for the better. Or simply, I just don’t have the gumption (which is a new favourite of mine).

Come to think of it, the energy that is required to write (and argue) on Twitter might come from the same place as writing opinion pieces for a publication. I suppose both are essentially airing pessimisms to an audience, and this here is no different.

At any rate, it should be quite obvious that this post is the product of a practice session. I should take advantage of the fact that almost nobody reads my blog as a carte blanche to write whatever for the sake of reaching that elusive ten-thousand hours mark.

Posted in Musing, Rant

I’ve Just Learned That There’s a Restaurant Named Ad Hoc

Watching a video of this girl who lives in her car makes me realise that we can adjust our personal notion of creature comforts. This is especially true after having a kid. Mind you, I feel guilty when I use my toddler as a crutch when it comes to my latest shortcomings. But having been the beneficiary of a wife who listens to many great self-improvement audiobooks, I reckon that I should be able to make do with the ad hoc arrangements in our home.

Continue reading “I’ve Just Learned That There’s a Restaurant Named Ad Hoc”
Posted in Rant

Not Another Declaration!

I’ve been staring at a blank page for many moons. There was an itch, but no actual words coming out, bleeding unto the page. It seems that there’s this invisible wall that held me back from transmuting my soul into words on but digital canvas.
Sometimes it’s the lack of flame: that burning desire to construct coherent thoughts, and at times, arguments, the presents itself well to whoever will read my two cents.


Now mind you, I don’t consider myself a blogger. I don’t consider myself a professional writer. But merely, an aspirant.


Then, I came across two things.

Continue reading “Not Another Declaration!”
Posted in Rant

I Think, Therefore I Speak or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Figure Out Voice Recognition

There are so many excuses as to why someone stops writing or take a long hiatus. In my case, at first, it was marriage (or rather, the bliss of it). Lately, it has become my toddler
There were so many times when I wanted to write but couldn’t because I had to look after my baby. I had to keep him from not only injuring himself but also from being dirty and generally keep him from being a further nuisance to me and my wife than he already is. I think most parents know that having a kid is taxing and the fatigue keeps them from writing. But then, I found a solution which I hadn’t thought of using before. And the thing is, it’s been there for quite some time! That solution, dear readers, is voice recognition.


As with any other method of writing, there are so many Kinks to iron out when using voice recognition. For instance, I might say one thing and the phone picks up another thing and there’s also the issue of speaking punctuations because as much as technology has advanced, speech recognition still can’t pick up on intonations as cues for certain punctuation marks. That being said, it still feels more intuitive. At least it does for me, withstanding my situation.


So After figuring out how voice recognition work, I set out a production pipeline. First, I try to speak as much as I can on the phone (yes, I write on my phone because of how sucky windows recognition is on my Windows laptop). Then, after I finish editing the text, I add punctuations and whatnot (thank heavens for Grammarly!).
It’s been working great so far!


In fact, this blog entry is a product of phone dictation. As I’m quite happy with how this turned out, I might keep doing this in the future.

Posted in Rant

It’s All Good, Man!

So I’ve wanted to find a writing community that can help be more productive. I’ve tried sites like Scribophile and Critique Circle. But those sites are grindy, in which you have to critique other people’s writings up to a certain amount before you can post your own writing to be critiqued. Other places such as writing-related subreddits are a bit too loose for my taste. While Reddit can be home to great conversations, I somehow don’t feel a sense of community there.

Then I found out by scrolling down on my Facebook timeline that a friend of mine from my heady love hunt days is a writer who writes on this platform called Ketix. It’s an Indonesian platform. As I’m Indonesian, I thought I’d check it out.

I later found out that my friend was knee-deep in this online writing class/community called KMO. And that KMO’s main coach is one of the founders of Ketix.

After perusing much of what Ketix users have to offer (while the platform’s androidd app left a lot to be desired), I thought – on a midnight whim – that I should give this KMO thing a try. Especially because it’s free.

Little did I know that I was jumping into a rabbit hole.

Upon registering, I was given a Google form to fill. It asked for my address, email, phone number, and social media handles. I voluntarily wrote them down in good faith. After which, the registrant told me I’ve been put on a waiting list, and I had to persuade 2 other to join the class. After asking for clarification, I was told that it’s compulsory.

At that point, they already got my personal information (which is mea culpa!). Naturally, I was irked. Since they sell books on their platform, it’s quite obvious that the more people sign up for their training, the bigger the pool of people they can market their books to (not to mention other training/workshops). So I complimented them on their superb marketing tactics and was about to leave it at that.

The next morning, I got a WhatsApp message asking my permission to be invited to a group. Surprisingly, they accepted me. So I shrugged and set myself to enjoy the ride.

Suffice to say, it was not my cup of tea.

After the first session ended, everyone was tasked with writing down an affirming note, a kind of manifesto or promise to their self that they will be writers who will finish a book or more by such-and-such a date, which will become – at the very least – a best seller. That note has to be photographed and digitised with a photo of the person writing the note stamped into it. Then, that whole picture – note and all – have to be posted on Instagram with all the coaches being tagged. Certain hashtags are also required.

But oh blimey, that’s not enough. Each person has to persuade 5 other people to join the next batch.

Failing to do a task will lower a participant’s score (everyone starts off with 2). And if you’re out of scores, you’re out.

Blimey!
That’s clever marketing, eh?

To be fair, the K in KMO refers to “kelas” in Indonesian. So it’s an online class from the start. The community chats are a part of the learning framework.

That being said, I feel that the marketing here is blatant. Yes, I don’t have to pay for anything here. But they’re essentially getting free advertising from every participant!

Compared to MOOCs (such as the ones organised by The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program), I feel that KMO is cheesy.

Throughout the various MOOCs that the IWP has organised, I feel that I’ve gained insights, constructive criticism on my writings, and thought-provoking discussions. The lessons were completely free (you only have to pay if you want a certificate). And the syllabus was great! I was able to plan my lessons ahead, and I can pick up previous lessons if I ever got off the saddle during the MOOC period. And they weren’t selling books. Every MOOC participant can access lesson materials freely during the period. Anyone can walk away from the MOOC with downloaded PDFs of knowledge for future perusal. For free!

The thing is, the head coach of KMO actually wrote about bundling writing courses with selling books!

In the 2nd paragraph, he clearly advise you to bundle your book with some other product (for instance: a writing course).

Souce: Tendi Murti, Bukan Sekadar Nulis Pastikan Best Seller, (Jakarta: PT Elex Media Komputindo, 2015), p. 127

That being said, I understand it’s a common and fair business practice. But honestly, I kind of feel stupid for jumping down this rabbit hole.

Well, good for him. He said that KMO has gone on for 5 years now. It started with 30 participants, and it’s grown to about 400 now. Whatever he and his team did, it worked. I can’t really fault them for trying. They’re good people who worked their arses off.

Though perhaps, in the end, it just might not be for me. I’ve nothing to lose if my score reaches nil.

It’s all good, man!