Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A funny thing happened to me... at the American Club

The American Club (or to call it by its proper name, the American Embassy Recreation Association) is a social club in Brawijaya. It offers gym and pool facilities for its members, a number of basketball, racquetball and tennis courts, babysitting services for hassled mums at the club while their kiddies splash about in the kiddie pool, a decent enough cafe and happily for me, wifi facilities since I can't use any of the sports facilities for now. They also hold social events and activities, I saw flyers up for Halloween parties, charity work and a US election party on Nov 5. Our friends are members and took us on a tour. We liked the place well enough and promptly signed up.

To join, get the application forms from the club front desk. Supply two copies of your photies, your KITAS and your passport. Hand them back in and the club will then send them on to the US Embassy for security clearance, that takes about a week. They will then contact you regarding your application status. Membership is open to all Americans and limited number of other nationalities. Fees are as follows: One time initation fee of US$300 and monthly fees for single membership (US$70), couple (US$110) and family (US$135). Corporate membership is also available, you pay a refundable deposit of US$300 and annual fees are US$1,100 for couples and US$1,350 for family.

Security is supposed to be pretty tight as the compound also houses the staff of the US Embassy. To enter, you have to clear two gates. When I first arrived there to hand in my application, the first gate told us we would not be allowed to drive in as we didn't have the security sticker on our car. Fair enough, I thought. So I asked my driver to wait while I slid out and walked through.

There were two guards at the 2nd gate. I explained why I was there and they nodded, asking me to register my details first. I did so and they handed me a pass marked GUEST and asked me to follow the walkway. Going into the American Club is like entering a whole new world. You forget the mess and chaos of everyday Jakarta once you are inside. Everything's so properly laid out and neat and clean and everyone speaks English and if you're inside long enough, you'd get a little shock once you come back out into the real world and get honked at by an irate bajaj driver.

I handed in the forms to the front desk and had a quick chat with them. Job done, I left and went back to the guard post at the 2nd gate. It was a hot, hot afternoon and I was eager to get back to the air-conditioned comfort of my car. One of the guards had disappeared. The other... well, he was snoozing.

I walked up to him and called out politely, "Hello Pak..." (Pak is a polite term here in Indonesia to address an adult male, like a Mister. No relation to Pakistan) No answer. He's still in the Land of Nod. I called out again, a little louder this time, "Pak..!" Still in zzzz-land. Desperate to wake him up, I finally shook the guard post table and yelled, "EXCUSE ME!" He woke up then, looking about in a blur as I held out my pass and asked, "Do I have to sign out anywhere?" Sleepily, he mumbled, "Oh nono.. it's okay.. bye-bye... sorry ma'am... I am sleeping..." and promptly went back to sleep when it was clear I had no intention of reporting him to his superiors.

Oh boy. So much for the tight security and keeping future terrorists and bombers out of US territory. Simon, if you're reading this, I guess this is a business opportunity for your firm!

Contact details for American Club:
Jl Brawijaya IV No. 20
Kebayoran Baru
Jakarta 12160
Tel: 726 4560/270 2439
Email: membership@aecra-club.org

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