As I type this I am locked in a cell in an Indonesian detention center. Why you may ask? Surely someone who has been traveling the world for five years is smart enough not to get himself deported. Well, apparently I am not.
However rather than being deported for some heinous act, like smuggling or getting arrested for a sordid deed, the details surrounding my deportation are far more comical. And also a bit disturbing in their implications.
I Am Being Deported Because Of A Tweet
It was a tweet that I knew was wrong and deleted five minutes later, but not before a friend turned psycho stalker had taken a screenshot of it. Now I have become the first person in history to be deported for a tweet.
What Did The Tweet Say?
While I don’t want to repeat myself, let me just put it this way: I used the F word and kantor imigrasi (immigration office) in a sentence and threatened to never return to Indonesia. This was of course an empty threat, as anyone who knows me or reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I love Indonesia more than my own birth nation. However in my aggravated state that day I didn’t think, I just hit ‘tweet’ — and now I am paying the price.
Only in my beloved Indonesia, a country which worships Twitter and despises the F word, would such a thing ever be possible. The land that has shown me nothing but love for more than a year now has me in its cross-hairs.
While I’m not defending my actions, I still believe that this is he most absurd situation I have ever been in. Especially because other Indonesians have replied to me on Twitter saying “yeah fuck kantor imigrasi!” And while I greatly regret what I said, no amount of apologizing could undo the harm caused.
My Indonesia Visa Situation
I’m in Indonesia on my fifth visa. Despite having started a life here with a wonderful lady, obviously I am a travel writer and frequently on the move. As such I never spend more than two months at a time in this country which I now call home. That’s why a tourist VOA, valid for 30 days but extendable to 60, is perfect for me.
That’s all I need. I don’t make any money in this country so I don’t need a work visa, and a six-month social visa does not allow for multiple entries.
I’ve extended several of my prior visas and truthfully I’m usually late doing this. But that has never been an issue. You go to kantor imigrasi, tell them you need an extension, pay a fine ($20USD/day) if late and voila, you are granted another 30 days. In both Jogja and Jakarta, the two places I most often extend my visas, they never ask to see a departure ticket or anything like that. It’s an easy and painless process.
At least it usually is.
This time I tried to extend my visa at a different location, one that wanted to see a departure ticket. So I bought one to Kuala Lumpur and gave them a copy with my paperwork and passport, intending to return next week after a couple brief trips around the country to retrieve my passport. Unfortunately things did not go as planned.
Tiga orang dari kantor imigrasi cari kamu.
While en route back from Jakarta the following week I start receiving WhatsApp messages: three officials from kantor imigrasi were at my house and my girlfriend’s house searching for me. How they even found out about her or where she lives is still a mystery to us both — our relationship has never been talked about on social media or this blog until now.
Soon after that I received a call from immigration, telling me I needed to return to their office for a hearing. Immediately my heart sank. I knew this was about my deleted tweet. After all, immigration agents don’t comb the city looking for you unless they have a valid reason — or in this case a “big boss” back in Jakarta that was pissed and wanted my head on a platter.
I arrived back in Solo that evening and despite it being after closing time went straight to immigration. There were still a few employees there however after a brief questioning I was instructed to return the next morning at 8:30am for an official hearing.
I Knew Right Then I Was Fucked
(See, I use that word all the time — not directed at people but rather to convey emotion or a horribly shitty situation.)
Knowing that was quite possibly my last night in Indonesia as a free man, I spent it drinking beer with my neighbors and having a laugh while waiting for the missus to get off work. Although I kept telling her not to worry, I myself was already prepared for the worst. And rightfully so.
The next morning I arrived promptly at 8:29am. The first thing the head boss said to me is: “Where are your clothes? Why did you not bring your stuff?” I knew right then I was fucked and sent a text to my wonderful beauty queen telling her so before I turned my phone off.
From 8:30 – 5:30 (with a brief lunch break from noon to one) I was questioned relentlessly about what I have been doing in Indonesia so many times and, of course, that tweet.
First they held up a picture of me, the one I use for my Twitter image (and every other social media account I have). “Is this you?” “Yes, of course.”
Then they held up a photograph of my tweet. “Do you recognize this? Did you post this?” “Yes, but I deleted it five minutes later because I knew it was wrong.” From that point on nothing I said mattered — I was to be deported and blacklisted from ever returning to Indonesia, the country I most love.
After having a final dinner of nasi liwet with three gentleman from immigration — goodhearted guys that I am proud to now call friends — I was shown to my cell and at precisely 8:00pm the doors slammed shut and the padlock bolted into place. My freedom, my fun, and my life in Indonesia had suddenly come to a screeching halt.
Next Post Life In An Indonesian Detention Center
You mean besides the obvious one of watch what you say on social media, a lesson that has been learned time and time again by people around the world in a variety of shocking and laughable ways?
There is such a thing as too many followers. I’ve mentioned in a variety of places that there is nothing I won’t say…I’m a blunt son of a bitch, in both my social media and my writing. Some people love this, others I’m sure despise me for it. If I only had 1-2k followers, I could say F this and F that all day and most likely it wouldn’t make a difference. But with over 20,000 there is bound to be someone out there who will take serious offense. The more followers you get, the more you have to conform to a higher moral standard — especially if you use Twitter professionally.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. This entire situation started thanks to one friend turned psycho stalker, upset because I wouldn’t sleep with her. I know, crazy right? Usually it’s sleeping with someone that gets you in trouble, not NOT sleeping with them. At first I tried to maintain a friendship with her, however she was hellbent on destroying me to the point where she made herself look like a liar and attention-seeker to do so.
Respect the local culture. I always always ALWAYS respect the locals’ way of life and their culture. However as already mentioned, I also have a tendency to drop the F bomb and I usually don’t think before I say it. I even say it in Bahasa. Of course I forgot that I was warned by friends here never to say it outside of Jakarta, as the word is very taboo. (Many of you may even remember last year when I was taken into an immigration interrogation room and questioned for 45 minutes. That was also for saying fuck, although that time it was verbally done within earshot of an immigration official, not via social media. Unfortunately it would appear that I didn’t learn my lesson back then.)
There is no such thing as bad publicity. For the first four days I was locked up there was quite the twitwar a-ragin’ online. While the vast majority supported me because they know I am a good guy and love Indonesia, there were also a few who said things like “dasar bule go home” and “get the fuck out of my country.” However in the first day or two that the story broke I gained hundreds and hundreds of new social media followers and traffic to my site skyrocketed even though I hadn’t written any new articles. In fact one day actually broke the record for the most unique traffic in a 24-hour period — and it was a Sunday, notoriously known as one of the lowest traffic days of the week.
Cut stalkers off before they cut you down. Had I just blocked this horrid wretch when she first went crazy, instead of allowing her to continue following me, this whole situation could have been completely avoided. Perhaps the most amusing part is that she is actually gloating about this online. Honey, you may think you’ve won, but in reality you’re just giving your country a black eye. Although I love Indonesia and will continue to praise/promote it, it will now become known as the country that deports people because they don’t like what was said on Twitter. And it’s all her fault.