As we are drive from the airport the airport, the first thing I notice is the traffic – it seems chaotic and several times I see drivers change lanes straight in front of us. Our driver seems to regard this as normal and takes this and the vast number of motorcycles in his stride. They swarm around the car like ants round a sugar cube. I wonder what they’d make of Campbell Newman’s bikie laws here.
At the hotel, I speculate about the traffic and suggest that maybe it works because this is a more community-based culture than our individualistic concepts – that when they change lanes, they just expect those behind them to take care not to hit them, whereas we grow angry at the other driver for moving into our space. My wife tells me that India is even worse and my theory doesn’t hold because Indian drivers are so aggressive.
“What makes you say that?” I ask.
“They keep hitting their horns,” she replies.
“Perhaps that’s just their way of announcing that they’re coming through. Just because a horn is used aggressively in Australia doesn’t mean that it has the same meaning throughout the world.”
We speculate about how hard it is to use your horn in Australia without sounding angry, and wonder if there isn’t a market for three different horns: a “hello, I’m here”, a “wake up, you seem to be oblivious to the other traffic/lights” and a “I have already cursed you and all your demon family and next you’ll be part of a road rage incident.”
It takes me a while to get used to suddenly becoming a multimillionaire. I believed the money that I withdrew from the ATM would last me a couple of days, and I’m pleased that it tells me that my available balance has far too many zeroes for me to work out what it is in rupiah. Later that day – after waiting for my change – I find that I am low on money. It’s then that I work out that I withdrew the princely sum of about thirty dollars. And that the change I waited for would have been about thirty cents.
At one point, I tip a driver who has been employed by a restaurant to take us there and back. Later, I start to worry that my tip was just so small as to be insulting. Or so large that he’ll follow me around for the rest of my holiday.
But the strangest thing for me is having no internet access apart from walking a kilometre to Starbucks and using their wifi. Consequently, I’ve heard little about Australian politics. The local papers available at breakfast have nothing about what the Abbott Government is doing so, in one sense it’s just like home.
Well, I’ll be back next week. Try not let Abbott do too much while I’m away.
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