“I’m thinking to renegotiate my contract so I can work part-time”.
I said to my wife as we were about to sleep. It was around the end of February. All staff contracts were expiring in the following month and were being in the process of extension. My wife and I just returned from our two-week holiday in Japan. I missed home and Kayla badly and I kept on thinking of my aging mother’s face. It had been a year that I had been at home. I realized, it had been a total of four years then that I had been working and living away from home. Even with less pay, I wouldn’t mind as long as I could get to be at home taking care of my parents and be near again with Kayla and Amber.
“Let me calculate carefully first if changing the contract from full time to a part-time work would put us at a great loss at the end of my contract.”
My logic tried to fend off the emotion I felt about home. The next day, I then did the number crunching, and indeed, the number didn’t look good if I changed the contract then.
“Let’s just sit out and see this contract ends until 2022 and go home after that”. I said to my wife. In the end that was our decision.
Life is indeed a mystery. Little that we knew, a few weeks later, I had to go home and spent a few months at home in Kupang. What would have happened if I had decided to renegotiate my contract?
After a long time reporting no case of COVID-19, Indonesia announced the first two cases on March 2, 2020. As the Provincial Government of Jakarta applied limited quarantine measure starting March 14, 2020, and advised business to start implementing work from home policy, our office followed this measure. By March 19, the cases increased to 309 with Jakarta alone reporting the majority of the cases.
My wife had returned home to Kupang from Jakarta a week earlier. If the office continued to apply working from home policy for a period of time, then there would be no difference at all working from the apartment in Jakarta or anywhere else in Indonesia including at home in Kupang. Observing the data from other countries in the world, I anticipated a grim picture of the problem to come. At that time some countries with more advanced medical facilities like China, South Korea, and Singapore were struggling to contain the number of cases to escalate and to treat a high number of people who contracted the virus. I knew that the trend would only go up in Indonesia. People began to feel frustrated to see how unprepared it seemed for the government to anticipate and had been relaxed about the disease. Mixed or even contradicting messages were conveyed by top officials at the national and the local governments.
“It will get worse. I’d rather be at home around the people that I care of than being here alone in this city. If I had to contract the virus and get sick, it’d better be at home than here.” I said to my self.
“Yes, you can go home but just be ready if you’re needed here in Jakarta”.
My boss text read when I asked his approval if I could fly back home to Kupang and work from there. I booked the flight a day later. The best decision I’ve made in such a perfect time. Soon after, the government intensified its measures to contain the virus and a month later on April 24, all domestic flights were closed.
Three months after the first case was reported, the trend continued going upward in Indonesia as I anticipated.
The Provincial Government of Jakarta published its official statement on June 4, that it had now entered the transitional community quarantine phase. It claimed that the effective production rate has reached a safe rate (Rt < 1) for a moderate opening of the city. Although flights are still closed, I’m anticipating I would have to return to Jakarta again very soon.
* Paparan Gubernur DKI tentang PSBB Transisi on June 4, 2020.
Days flew in a breeze. I wanted to write here about what we went through. If there is still a future, I could go back and read this story again and reminisce the time.
A lot of things happened actually in this period of time. Despite Kupang reporting a low number of COVID-19 cases, I remained sceptical knowing that we didn’t have proper testing equipment and facilities, the number of tests were low, and people were going about their business as normal.
My wife and I remained vigilant but still enjoyed going out early in the morning before other people started their day, either waiting for the sunrise at the beach, up in the hill or taking a long drive to hinterland around Kupang.
During the first month, we went out to the beach a lot even lighting a campfire while waiting for the sun to rise. Kayla and Amber enjoyed running around the beach. Living in Jakarta for almost three years, I already forgot how beautiful the sunrise at home.
By April, it was Ramadhan, the fasting month arrived and we only went out occasionally. Works were picking up too. At the end of the month, I fell sick. I felt some tingling and pain in my stomach that continued bothering and limiting my movement. We then stopped going out for a while. I had to sleep away the pain during my one week-long Idul Fitri holidays.
After I recovered a bit, we found another way to enjoy the sunrise other. Not far from the airport, there’s an open field up in the hill. No one really went there early in the morning. We would arrive as early as 5 AM in the morning, or even earlier, set up our picnic chairs, brought some hot chocolate drinks and just sat there enjoying the moments. Sometimes the wind blew quite strong and a bit chilly but we enjoyed every moment of it.
Indonesia’s Report on Covid by 7 July 2020