Here within my lonely frame / My eyes just hurt my brain

These things are sent to sent to test us….

A couple of days back we tried to buy some Shakespeare. We, naturally, went to the only English language bookstore in Bali, Periplus. Periplus is a chain here in Indonesia and has at least a dozen branches across the island. Its most generously described as a little sad, with lots of tourist aimed coffee table books, badly printed, and odd cut-out biographies and motivation tomes, but it’s all we have. We asked at the counter and the guy studied the computer for a few minutes.

Yes we have Shakespeare – it’s in the Fiction section.

Oh, ok

I guess fiction works loosely although I’m thinking that Richard III and Henry V, amongst quite a few other names subject to the quill of whoever Shakespeare may or not have been, actually have existed at one time. The very helpful girl took us over and offered us this.

Uh, no, we want any of the works of William Shakespeare – our daughter is studying him at school – it’s part of the national curriculum, both English and Indonesian. Oh, you’ve not heard of William Shakespeare? This is a bookshop?

Yes

An English language one?

Yes

You’ve not heard of Shakespeare? Oh, only that book? But not William?

No, Pak…..

· I’ve had a series of emails from a company in Jakarta recently. They’re one of the larger fabric retailers in the city, with a turnover, I’d guess, in the millions. Their Sales Manager sends his emails to me as attachments. These attachments come as Microsoft Excel worksheets. Each word takes up a separate cell.

· Here’s a company who sent me an email in their massed mail-out. Their website is fairly well written and contains lots of information, but after all, the effort to do that – their website is a blogspot – odd. I also received the email address of every one of their potential customers in the address field, so I imagine I’m in for a raft of other offers for things I don’t need (like the Bandung grain storage company who mail me daily the same email offering me grain hoppers).

· PLN is the local power company. One of the bizarre things about the electricity system in Bali (aside from its expense and absolute unreliability) is the fact that they don’t tell you how much you owe. Elsewhere on the planet, in my experience at least, the utility companies send you a nice letter at the end of a billing cycle, sometimes even with a wee newsletter to read on the loo, and you pay it. In Indonesia, or at least in Bali, it’s up to the consumer to actively seek out the amount due out and pay it before they cut you off. Several years in, I’m still confused by this but I think one is obliged to either stand in a queue at some office, or ring a number, or…

In Indonesia, or at least in Bali, it’s up to the consumer to actively seek out the amount due out and pay it before they cut you off. Several years in, I’m still confused by this but one is obliged to either stand in a queue at some office or ring a number – it’s bizarre. So I was pleased when I found the PLN Bali website (this I won’t link to). You go into it, enter the number of the account (which brings up the name of a person no-one I know has ever heard of and an address a little different to ours – but that’s Bali – you simply never apply logic to any situation) and up comes an amount which you can pay (a friend takes it to the office with hers). But now, we have a bit of an issue with the process: both IE7 and Firefox have detected that the web designer, who, I guess, is a contracted-in young-scallywag, has implanted a virus in the page’s code. A couple of links on the page to get further information on a couple of things (like how to save money on your power bill) trigger a virus download. An email to the company and the webmaster has garnered no response.

· Our emailed invoices from our suppliers in Indonesia come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some come as 6mb bitmaps (per one page document), others are Excel spreadsheets with the print area set to 365 pages, and so on. This is very helpful when one punches Ctl-P and wanders off to make coffee.

· We learned early on, but not early enough sadly that you don’t give your business card to Indonesian trade organisations. The end result of that folly is endless emails from companies all over the world who’ve been sold the list. The ones from Indonesia tend to be often incoherent and likely link to a website which doesn’t exist. It seems that registering and setting up a website are less important to Indo businesses than – to indicate importance – claiming to have one. Think of the money it saves on web design.

If on the off chance, it does link to something there is a better-than-even chance that it will be either completely non-navigable, with multiple dead links and/or crashing Flash 5; or has been authored with a huge variety of fonts over a wallpaper background of a similar colour to the type, with a varietynag of spinning and flashing applets and animated gifs. It will also say ©2003 Optimised for Netscape Navigator 2 And IE3. Email addresses on these sites are never live or clickable and exist inside a graphic designed to defeat any use of Ctl-C. They are usually far too long to remember without writing down and are Hotmail despite the fact they have a domain. The police use Hotmail. You will never get a response from these emails, at least 50% of which bounce back, as these companies like to change their email addresses every month or two to prove, once again, how modern they are. You are better to fax through a request as faxes are increasingly big news and look likely to supplant the typewriter and the dot-matrix printer in a few years.

· Last year we bought a printer – a mid-priced Brother multi-function thingy. It came with spare ink and we topped up earlier this year in Malaysia where compatible ink sells for about $5 a cartridge. But the black ran out last week and I’ve spent half the last week trying to find it with no luck. The place we bought the printer from still sells the machines but the ink is One month from Singapore! So we went to Carrefour, down there on JL. Sunset. They have the ink listed on their wall display but don’t actually stock it. Thus we decided a new printer may be the only way, as there was some urgency and they’re not overly expensive. So we saw a new Canon – do you sell the ink for this? No? Which of the dozen or so printers you have for sale here, do you have ink for? None.

· In Indonesia, bank websites generally look like they’ve been authored circa 1996, for Mosaic or the like. Parts of them may or may not load and they may have frames within frames. To get a simple balance on my bank, Permata’s, site, I need to go through five levels of clicking – any one of which may freeze the browser. Its interface was last updated in 2003 and does not work in Firefox. Emails to these people are never ever, ever responded to. The online transfer bit has a very, very small space for the payee’s name – too small for most names. If the full name is not given, or a comma or full stop is in the wrong place the receiving bank, depending on their mood, may reject it. Brigid can often hear me screaming at, and bashing the computer, as I try to pay the phone bill online or note that the internet payment, with all details correct and mucho funds has been returned for the third time because its name is one letter too many for the Permata site’s space. This is their corporate profile page.

· But for all that, my biggest frustration right now has nothing to do with Indonesia. It’s, again, DHL in New Zealand, who, after three years of doing it, forgot to send the mail from our mailbox up to us on the first of the month. They claimed that they had no record of having done so in the past, and it wasn’t “something we do” said the helpful person – as she copied the email to the Global Mail Forwarding Manager. So all the things I mentioned earlier, fade a little – they’re just a result of education and technology gaps. DHL’s error is just plain incompetence.

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