Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Week in Indonesia

Instead of the usual, I Live in Iowa, weekly series I am doing a series of one this week. I spent less than six hours in Iowa so the normal title is not really appropriate.

Obviously what I talk about since I was in Indonesia will be different than other weeks. However, I was there for work, so work has the first paragraph. First, video, I was there to get video of machine structures and machines in operation. I bring back approximately 152 minutes of video plus or minus five minutes. If that was the sole purpose of me being on this trip then the cost of  each minute of video would be around $30. That includes the videos of scorpions, Singapore, and traveling. Condensed down to strictly structural evaluation and machine operation I probably have around 90 minutes. It is a little mind boggling how little time was actually spent with boots on the ground near machines. I mean we would pull up to a machine with our caravan of four to seven pickups and spend hardly any time there. The first machines we spent probably 45 minutes inspecting but the other machines we probably spent less than 15 minutes evaluating. I easily had my video camera running most of the time when we were at a machine. Honestly my video camera was probably running 70-80% of the time we were at machines. I don't feel like I missed much. In fact, segue into ego boosting story telling mode, I felt like one of the astronauts to walk on the moon. So much effort was taken to get me and my camera to this place where I had to take a look at about eight different things before the caravan took off for the next destination. It was one of the those times when every three seconds I felt like I was adding knowledge to the database. Videotape that weld, done. Videotape that pin, done. Videotape those bolts, done. Every few minutes it seemed like I discovered something new that the engineers in Dubuque either did not know, had not seen, or did not communicate.

Aside from the paltry volume of time we spent inspecting machines with our boots on the ground, we spent time in meetings, traveling and eating. We met for about two hours on Monday with the dealership in Pekanbaru. Another hour and a half with the machine operator company on Tuesday. Three hours preparing our conclusions on Thursday and another hour and a half in the final summary meeting Thursday with all involved parties. So around eight hours of meetings in four days. We also spent a significant amount of time eating and drinking. Breakfast and lunch were rather short most days but supper started around 7 or 8 PM and the socializing lasted basically the rest of the night. In fact, our celebration of machine inspection dinner Wednesday night lasted over four hours.

The traveling on the other hand was extraordinary time consuming. We spent around 42 hours in airplanes over eight flights. We also spent about an hour in the car Monday, three hours Tuesday, nine hours Wednesday, and another two hours Thursday plus or minus an hour each day. I really enjoy traveling to new places. I feel that seeing the world from the window of a vehicle is one of the better ways to see things. Certainly it gives one a better understanding of the place than the view from an airplane or train. The first video of the day is a very typical example a paved road experience in the Riau province of Indonesia. This was taken during the morning of Tuesday, October 30th on the outskirts of Pekanbaru. The unfortunate part of this video is that you only have something like a 35 degree field of view where as I had about 180 while taking the video. There are things you miss watching just the video.
After factoring in traveling, meetings, and sleep there was not much dead time at all. I mean I do not remember ever having more than two hours before the next scheduled engagement during the day. I did have enough time to go running every day but three times I was done by 5:30 AM, once I started out at 6:30 PM, and the other time I started at the late hour of 6 AM. Sorry no video of me running. It would be nice to get some, but again who do I ask to get it?

Overall I struggled most with the food, smoking, and the Chicago to Hong Kong flights. Neither struggle was particularly challenging. In fact, I had the best prawn (shrimp) and crab I have ever had! Although, that was at a Chinese restaurant in Indonesia. I also bit the head off of a fish, a fried little eel looking thing. I suppose it tasted like fish jerky. Also, the food is spicy! I mean, I ate half a large bottle of Tabasco sauce in the two weeks leading up to this trip and I should have had the whole bottle. The second video is of lunch Monday, three hours after we arrived in Indonesia. Google only allows one video per post so this video will have to wait to be embedded. I was thinking the whole time that I was certain to get diarrhea or some other parasite from the food, but I've been back over a day and I am still okay.

The flights were not fun but certainly not as bad as I expected. I am small enough that I travel in economy well. I can cross my legs, read, use my computer, get up and walk around a little, and take my shoes off. That being said, I do not think I could function well commuting to the other side of the world every week. Probably 80% of the men in Indonesia, at least around Pekanbaru smoke. Some more than others, but it is quite the opposite of the United States. That is changing slowly. A few years ago they finally cracked down on smoking on flights around Indonesia. Things change it just takes time.

I managed to run about 34 miles for the week, although about 14 of them were in Singapore and six in the Hong Kong hotel I slept in. Travel does not have to stop everything in your life. I really enjoy running in other countries. I did not run in Pakistan outside of basecamp but I took full opportunity to run in Indonesia. My favorite run was five miles that I did Wednesday morning around 6:30 AM. I ran out of the compound were were staying at into the town of Kerinci and along the main street. I received so many stares! I like the stares from the kids, such as the Muslim girls wearing burkas, because I feel I am probably the first of my kind (a white runner in short shorts) they have ever seen. I feel these trips to other countries are one way that I can be an ambassador of good will toward other countries. There are problems like climate change and sustainability that we have to deal with during my lifetime and they will only be solved if everyone in the world works together on solutions. Putting myself into these other places can help educate all parties. The life expectancy in Indonesia is 60 for men now. Perhaps seeing me running will be one of the events to spur some Indonesians to exercise a little. I am assuming that many of them die from heart attacks and the risk of heart disease can be reduced through exercise. Although speaking of health, allegedly the jungle ants that bite people like to suck out the sugar and are good for diabetics. Yeah, I called my Indonesia friend out on that as soon as he said it. That being said I was probably bitten 40-60 times in two days by little ants whose bite hurts as much as a mosquito. I did get a handful of mosquitos bites, but less than ten probably.

Was it worth it? Yes, I feel it was. Some of the information I am bringing home is mind boggling. I suppose it is nothing totally new, but this is an opportunity for knowledge transfer that I intend to make the most of. Most organizations struggle with knowledge transfer and communication for a variety of reasons. I intend to tell everyone who will listen about the things that I learned.

Would I go back? Yes, just give me some time to process everything that happened this week.

I had a great week! Certainly it was not perfect, my coaching really suffered, but life will never be perfect. We can only make the best of the little time that we have.

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