Friday happy hour at Goodies

Pretty much my only contact with my former place of employment – Smiling Hill and Goodies Restaurant – is on Friday for happy hour. An excellent venue for networking for business, and talked to four new possibilities this week. I have to remember to bring more business cards with me next week.

Anyway. we were having sort of a party for Ian and Sylvia, who will be leaving Monday for Perth, Australia Will be sorry to see them go. Here are some photos:

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Life in Nagoya


A trip to the fresh market

Every Sunday now I seem to be going to the fresh market, which is about a block from my apartment. This is where I get my fresh vegetables, fish, pork, fruit and chicken. Today, I bring you a typical purchase. Clockwise from top left: I usually get some sort of greens, even though I’m not sure what I’m buying. Whatever the greens are, they all tend to taste great (here I think I have some spinach and pak choy). Not sure what the white, carrot-looking item is, but it should be tasty. The potatoes here are OK but not Idaho quality. The prawns sell for about $8 a kilo, or less than $4 a pound (there’s a kilo here, good for five meals). Bottom right are two pieces of pork, with fat that I hope to replicate bacon with; Western-style bacon is very hard to find here and very expensive ($15 a pound in Singapore). A few Roma tomatoes, a couple of cucumbers, onions and green peppers rounds out my purchase today. The vegetables cost about $5.50 total.

Hati gets comfortable

Cats have a way of finding the strangest places to sleep. My apartment has about 12 feet of windows overlooking the street below, with a false wall built about 18 inches from the main wall of the building. This false wall is actually a poster for Lusy’s Pub downstairs that covers the whole side of the building. Louvers on the false wall allow me to let light and breeze in, or close it off. There is about a 4 1/2-foot drop to the floor from the window. Hati has discovered this corner where he sleeps during the day. He is able to claw his way back inside whenever he’s ready.

Hati was raised at Smiling Hill as an indoor/outdoor cat and his acclimation to inside living has been a bit hard for him. He’s used to finding playmates or things to do outside and now he mostly just can roam the hallways of the building unless I go down three flights to let him out. I try to do this every day, but usually I don’t have to go back down to let him in – he has learned to wait for other tenants to open the door downstairs and let him in.

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The seedy side of my apartment

While I’m basically pretty satisfied with my living conditions (and certainly with the rent of less than $200 a month), the scene outside is not very pretty. The entrance is in the back alley, with an open trash pit about 50 feet away. The trash often is burning, or there will be people sifting through it looking for anything to resell. And, of course, at night it is filled with rats. Running alongside the trash pit and up through town is the local “river,” a concrete culvert that carries runoff and trash. It is nasty. In the photos, the buildings are the backs of small restaurants, probably set up by squatters. I’m sure much of their trash is just dumped into the culvert.

The building photos show a black open space on the second floor, which is a new apartment the owner is constructing. Above that is a working area next to my apartment on the third floor. The four units to the right also are part of the building.


On a recent trip to Smiling Hill to pick up my mail, I happened to have my camera. Goodies waitress Lilis was swimming, so of course I took a photo. The ladies tend to dress a little conservative when swimming here – often fully clothed.

Back in Batam

Where was I? Waiting for the Singapore plane? Well. Now I’m sitting up in a bed in the downstairs suite of Neal and Emelda, after a rather interesting day of travel. Yes, I made it to Batam, but the trips seem to just become more complex every time you venture.

In London, I don’t think I mentioned food. I was in the Heathrow airport for nine hours, so eating was necessary. After all the on-the-go nature of eating on the trip to that point, I looked for a sit-down restaurant. Ended up at a place specializing in English and pub fare, with draft beers, so sounded good. Opted for their fish and chips, which was a little disappointing, especially since the chips were just French fries. Add a draft Fosters and the tab came to about $20.

Four or five hours later, nearing flight time, I decided on a place called “Eat,” which sits at one end of the waiting-to-debark “holding bin” we were all in. This place had a wide and interesting selection of sandwiches, including a BBQ pulled pork sandwich that I ordered. Very good. With a Diet Coke, $12.

The loading of passengers for our flight to Singapore was interesting, in that we first had to ride an elevator down a floor, then went down two or three long walkways, took a bus, another elevator, and something else I’ve forgotten. They do a good job in not losing people in the process. The 12-hour flight to Singapore was mostly long, uneventful. They did serve one of the best airline meals, if not the best, I’ve ever had. Now keep in mind that my frame of reference is eating on planes where the proletariat eats, not further up the food chain, so meals generally are pretty ordinary. This one was excellent – a three-pea/bean salad (OK), a good roll with butter, and a tasty basil rigatoni. Topped off with a red Spanish wine. Not only did this meal totally satisfy but I actually slept on a plane for the first time.

Of course, during the evening/morning, we did have two babies decide it was time to let us know they were not happy.

As we were touching down in Singapore, maybe two hours late because of thunderstorm delays in London, it suddenly hit me (Jack’s going to, love this one), that I was embarking on a completely new adventure, one that had less of a financial cushion than I had enjoyed previously, and one that might require me to reinvent myself in order to have any of life’s luxuries in the future. I’m not usually that self aware, normally just trudging along taking on whatever comes along without anticipating the event. You know, the “Eh, I’ll deal with it if it happens.”

But at least for the short term, I don’t have that financial cushion, unless I dig into my very limited savings. So it’s watch the budget. Which was difficult this evening when I went out to re-establish connections. But I get ahead of myself.

I had difficulties at the Batam immigration checkpoint. While I was waiting for go through the checkpoint, it occurred to me that maybe I should have bought a 30-day visa on arrival, since my KITAS (I thought) would expire in a couple more days. I was right but for the wrong reason.

I was flagged and asked to go to a side office, where a young officer asked me to sit and then told me the KITAS (my previous work permit, which had been invaluable in allowing me to get on the flight from London to Singapore), was past its due date, and that, inexplicably, I could not buy a visa on arrival. “I have to send you back to Singapore,” he said.

Without burdening you with the details, I was faced with a huge Catch 22. Finally, I called my ex-boss, who was responsible for my work permit, who said it had been cancelled after I left. I told the officer the work permit had been cancelled and suddenly the door was open. He left to talk to his boss and came back to say I was good to go once I purchased a 30-day visa on arrival ($25). It gets better.

This had all taken a good bit of time and I was sure that Bjorn, if he was even there to pick me up, would have left by now, thinking I missed the ferry. I had sent a text to him from the Singapore ferry terminal but he did nt respond. Turns out Bjorn never got my message that I was on the ferry. After I caught a taxi to Smiling Hill and showed up at his door, I found his place dark and no one answering the bell.

It was Friday and Goodies was having its usual free beer Friday so maybe he was there. But phone calls didn’t get through. So I left my luggage in his driveway and walked down the hill to Goodies, still in the sticky and probably smelly clothes I had worn since London. I’m not sure I can describe what came next.

One after another, the Goodies Girls ran over to hug me. One hugged me so hard she broke the reading glasses I had hanging from the button on my shirt. There were tears again. How long you staying, Mr. Ken? Are you staying at Smiling Hill? I certainly felt welcome. But I didn’t find my cat yet.

Bjorn was not there, however, and no one could figure out where he was unless he had gone to Singapore. Meanwhile, my luggage is sitting in a driveway and I have no place to stay. So I’m at Goodies, not knowing what to do about a place to stay for the night and up walks Neal and his Indonesian wife Imelda. Neal and I had played some pool and he lives at Smiling Hill, up near the top of the hill. His wife had always been friendly. When they learned of my situation, they offered the bedroom suite in their 3-bedroom apartment, with its own bath.

So, that’s where I’m writing this from, unable to access the WiFi here because they have gone to bed and I didn’t think to ask for the security key. But I’ve jumped to the end of the story and there is more in between.

As you might expect, I was a bit juiced and unable to settle down for sleep. Still am. Plus, I wanted to see what my situation was with a certain Batam lady. So I took a quick shower, changed and was in a taxi to kampung bule.

Turns out my bar foray afterward was good for establishing some future marketing connections, as I ran into several people who may need my services or who might recommend me to others. I also ran into a friend whose girlfriend finds apartments for expats. I did, however, have to rein in my largesse in buying drinks. Just told the ladies I didn’t have a job and they seemed to understand. I’m supposed to meet with the girl about apartments today (Saturday).

Anyway, I hope to post this in the morning, after which it’s off to Nagoya to try to find a place to live. It’s good to be back.

P.S. For those people who might think I bailed on the Nevis thing too soon, trust me, it was an excellent decision. I can’t describe how much better I feel right now, even without a job or someplace to live. The Nevis job situation was awful, the island almost like living in exile, with virtually no one to talk to, to socialize with. It’s all good. I like Asia, I like the people, and I can afford to live here. I know a lot of people on Batam, have a good reputation (I hope) and there are opportunities for me here. Nevis was a dead end. Nuff said.