It is Sunday morning in Jakarta. Bright sunlight floods into our apartment from the huge windows on two sides of the living room and although it’s still early the temperature is already 30 degrees, and it promises to be 34 later. I open up the glass doors that lead onto our tiny balcony and breath in the not so fresh air from outside, before going back in to make coffee.
By 8am the builders have already started their work on the site opposite our apartment. They have been working on this construction now for nearly 4 months. Day by day the fruits of their hard labours materialize as the structure which they are building, slowly starts to rise up, storey by storey from it’s foundations. I watch them in the furious heat of the day as they sweat and toil, under the baking equatorial sun. There are no safety measures in place should they fall, no nets, harnesses or screens lest they slip. Open mouthed I watch as they stand near the edge of the platform and haul up heavy steel girders and concrete slabs with rope pulleys from the ground 200ft below.
What strikes me as different about this particular scene, aside from the desperate lack of any Health and Safety measures, is the absolute dedication of these workers. If this was the UK, you can bet your bottom dollar that there would be a tea break, fag break, dinner break at any given opportunity. But here, no, they continue to work relentlessly and tirelessly throughout the day, only stopping if there is a sudden downpour of rain.
Although we have what is described here in Indonesia as Elastic time, meaning that it’s extremely difficult and exceedingly frustrating at times to actually get anybody to commit to an actual time to start something; once the job, or project does eventually get going, Indonesians are a workforce par excellence. They are consummate in their workmanship, their craftsmanship and skills are second to none and they see the job through to the end with dedication and good humour.
This photo is another view from the apartment. The smokey haze is from the bonfires that are lit everyday to burn rubbish and household waste.
Disclaimer: When I refer to UK builders, I am talking about the builders that I have employed over the years. Some of the jobs have been for major renovation projects on old properties; others have been smaller things such as fitting a new kitchen/bathroom.
This is not a slight against all UK builders, just the 80% that I have employed who have made life hell, done a crappy job, shit workmanship, over charged us, then pissed off without finishing the job. The remaining 20% were great, wonderful in fact.