Indonesia Expat
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To Bee or Not to Bee


Before I moved to Jakarta, I lived in a coastal town famous for shark attacks.

I argued sharks weren’t really a problem. Statistically, I would say, bees were more dangerous. And I didn’t really believe a word I said. To my surprise, it turns out I was right about the bees, but I am actually much happier at the thought of dying from a bee sting than a shark bite, so the stats don’t help much.

One day the government made a free shark application available. The government tagged sharks, tracked them, and displayed their movements on the app. There was some doubt what proportion of the ocean’s sharks were being tracked, but you could see where the tagged sharks were. You could wait until they moved on.

The first thing I learned was that there were a very large number of tagged sharks. Virtually every day the government sent me at least one warning message. Initially, I responded conservatively and spent an awful lot of time watching my friends having great fun in the waves while I sat on the shore.

In the end, the only logical response was to stay out of the water and take up golf (but being careful of bees).

So, the application went into the trash and I went back into the water, deliberately and blissfully ignorant.

On August 2, 2019, along with all the other residents of Jakarta, I experienced a 6.9 magnitude earthquake. I had never experienced an earthquake before, so it took me a handful of seconds to process what was happening. On the 16th floor of my apartment, the shaking was impressive. Terrifying actually.

Fortunately, no one was hurt, but things did not go well. The electricity in the apartment failed. There were no emergency lights, no alarms, and no emergency announcements. When the first wave of shaking stopped, we decided to leave the building, along with most of the building’s occupants, via the pitch-black emergency stairs.

We then milled around outside, beneath the glass façade of the 28-storey building wondering what to do next. There was no evacuation procedure, and no meeting point, but we met some of our neighbours for the first time and chatted with the security staff, who were very friendly. Then we wandered off to the mall to wait six hours for electricity to return.

When I discovered the Indonesian BMKG (Meteorological, Climatological, and Geophysical Agency) had an Info BMKG mobile application, and among other things, would send a notice of any earthquake in Indonesia, I had to sign up.

The first thing I learned was there are a very large number of earthquakes in Indonesia, generally several a day. Mostly small I admit. But they are numerous. In the end, the only logical response is to research how to protect yourself, assume there will be no help, prepare your own emergency route, and pack an emergency bag.

I thought about trashing the application, but I love the coast and I love surfing. There’s clearly something to be said for tsunami warnings, if not for shark applications.

See: Bubbles and Piazzas

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