Recently I happened to find myself locked up abroad in Indonesia for 16 days all because of a tweet. (Yes, a tweet…a deleted one at that!) Now let me show you around my cell at the immigration detention center, my new (and hopefully temporary) home.
This post was written while I was locked up but not updated and published until now, so please disregard the present tense.
Let me just say right up front that this is by far the swankiest cell I have ever had the pleasure (errr misfortune) of calling a temporary home. Not that I make it a habit of getting myself locked up abroad, but an adventurous soul such as myself cannot travel the world for six years without getting into a few mishaps along the way.
The important point is to learn from these experiences and never repeat the same mistakes.
I also want to say that with the exception of one kantor imigrasi employee that told my girlfriend “he should suicide himself” everyone here has treated me really well. Several of them even follow me on Twitter and Path now, and I’m proud to call them friends.
Not only that but look at me — I’m tweeting from my cell. I have been allowed the luxury of holding onto my cellphone and tablet. And I appreciate that very much, for without them I would have already gone bat-shit crazy. I was even allowed beer the first few days.
Or At Least I Was.
The morning that my deportation post went viral guards came running in and quickly confiscated all of my possessions. I was left with nothing but my thoughts and a deck of playing cards I made by ripping up a couple sheets of paper. Time dragged by painfully slow and the days all blended together.
Since then my extra food supply that friends have been delivering has been cut-off, as well as my visitation rights. I also have been wearing the same dirty pair of boxers and nothing else for several days now, even though my clean clothes have long since been delivered to the immigration office.
Keep in mind again that I am not complaining about my incarceration, not in the slightest, although I am disappointed by the ludicrous issue that got me here in the first place. However as long as I am here, I might as well describe to you what life in an Indonesian immigration detention center is like.
My cell is actually a three-bedroom building with one large open area and a communal bathroom. And luckily I have it all to myself. I turned myself in to the authorities in a small town that apparently does not arrest many foreigners. The fellows here were even nice enough to give me an extension cord so that I can charge both my phone and tablet at a time, as well as run the fan which my missus delivered for me.
My room has a decent bed with some funky stained sheets, but at least they smell clean. There are two chairs and even a small desk.
The night guard buys me one pack of kretek cigarettes a night, although they cost about twice the price as they do in the store (profit which I’m sure goes straight into his pocket). What are Kretek cigarettes? They are hand-rolled using a mixture of various cloves — check out all the photos from my free tour of the House Of Sampoerna Cigarette Factory in Surabaya, Indonesia.
What About Food?
I am delivered two small meals a day, sometimes both around 1-2pm, other times spaced out in the morning and evening. Except for yesterday, when they “accidentally” forgot about me and only after asking repeatedly was I finally brought one small meal of fried rice around 11pm. That or the immigration officials had already found out about my article going live — which is entirely possible. That post got over 50,000 views in less than 24hrs and has resulted in numerous interview requests from around the world.
And The Bathroom?
The bathroom consists of a squat toilet and bucket shower system. However there is also a storeroom here that isn’t locked, so I pulled out a few boxes and by placing them upright on the squatter managed to turn it into a rudimentary western sit toilet. Luckily I have some tissues as well, but they are fast running out. I never planned on being here this long.
I was informed the second day I was in custody to buy a ticket to Singapore for Wednesday but then when that day arrived they wouldn’t let me leave. Now I’ve been told I have to buy two tickets — one to LA so that I pass back through American soil and then a second from LA back to Singapore. That will be a waste of $2,500+, not to mention a good three solid days spent in airports and in the air. Of course I refuse to do this until they tell me exactly when I can leave. What happens if I buy these tickets and then they don’t let me out for that flight? They’ve already done that once.
In the meantime I’m waiting to talk to my embassy, to see if they can help convince the Indonesian immigration office that Singapore, Malaysia or the Philippines all know and love me, and will not reject me at immigration simply because they see a red deported stamp in my passport.
So there you have it, that’s a tour of my current home at the Solo immigration detention center. Certainly not bad at all. It’s actually bigger than the house I was staying at in Solo — minus the air conditioning, of course. However I still would not recommend that anyone else get themselves locked up in an Indonesian detention center.