“How do you know this address?”: A Case Study in Why We Keep Our Doors Locked

When Caitlin and I first arrived in Pangkal Pinang, we were told to lock our doors at all times… using all four locks on each door. There are three doors to get in our house: two in the front and one in the garage. The front gated doors have two locks and a sliding bolt each, and the actual doors have yet another lock. The garage door has two locks and the inside door has a lock too.

It took awhile to get used to this arrangement since locking up meant taking an extra minute to sort out the keys and jam them into the sometimes-stubborn locks to both get out of the house and to lock up again before leaving. Despite the minor inconvenience of always locking and unlocking the doors, we have been good about following this protocol and it has become second nature to lock the door behind me when I walk inside.

Just moments ago, I had a good reason to be thankful for this now-instinctive habit.

My current view. The gate-door has two locks and a sliding bolt, and the actual door has yet another lock. The other front door has the same set-up.

I am currently sitting on the carpet in the TV room, fiddling with Indonesiaful, drinking coffee, and listening to my neighbors chanting evening prayers for what must be a special occassion. Caitlin is across the street eating pempekĀ (some sort of meat concoction that looks like brains and has a strong odor) at our neighbor’s house. I have the front door in the TV room open since it was raining earlier and it is nice to hear the sound of rain and feel the breeze. Cars and motorcycles whiz by our front street every so often, and sometimes I catch snippets of conversation or laughter as pairs on motorcycles call out to each other as they go by. There are a lot of mosquitoes.

So here I was sitting, minding my own business, when I heard our front gate slide open. We have a heavy-duty lock for the gate too, but we don’t use it since it would be a pain to have to lock and unlock that gate every time we come and go from the house. Night has already fallen and I have no plans for anyone to visit at this hour. While Indonesians do find it appropriate to stop by people’s houses without prior arrangements, I have made it clear to people who know me that they need to contact me or Caitlin first before coming by.

I could hear a motorcycle engine rev up our mini-driveway and a male voice called out: “Miss!” I thought it might have been our friend Moses, who is coming home from a camping trip today, though he hadn’t mentioned coming by this evening. “Miss!” the voice called again. The engine stopped. I jumped up and ran to my room to grab a shawl–when I am in the comfort of my home I am far from decent by Indonesian standards.

“Miss!” the voice called again. “Sebentar!” One moment please! I called from my room. The visitor was standing at the open door and his voice filled the house. I came out of my room and went to the door, arms across my chest to keep the shawl closed tight. And there stood… two young men I don’t know.

Not good.

“Selamat malam,” [Good evening] one of them said.

“Malam.” [Evening.] I replied. I was not smiling.

“Bisa bahasa Indonesia?” [Can you speak Indonesian?] He asked.

“Bisa.” [I can.] I regarded their wide smiles suspiciously. They introduced themselves, one was named Andri (or something like that) and I can’t remember the other one’s name. We shook hands through the gate-door that I was not about to unlock, hospitality be damned.

They said that they are friends of Robert, a guy from Germany who sort of lives in PKP too. I have only met him once and he hangs out with other guys that some of my friends mistrust. I asked how they knew this address and they said that Robert told them, which is interesting because Robert has never been here. We’ll have to have a talk with him.

I curtly told them that it is impolite to come to the house of someone that you don’t know, especially if it is at night. They asked if I was alone and I fibbed, saying that Caitlin was here but she was laying down. I reiterated the unwelcomeness of their coming, and they got the message pretty quickly. They shook my hand again and took their leave. The whole interaction took less than two minutes, and I was thankful to have the door already locked during every second.

I don’t know what their intentions were in coming to our house at this hour, nor do I know what kind of welcome they expected to receive. I am usually very friendly with people, which is generally reagarded as a positive thing in Indonesia though it can bring about instances such as this when people take my friendliness the wrong way. I can only hope that this is an isolated incident and that no other unknown young men, possibly with mischief on their minds, come by to bother us. In the meantime, I’ll definitely be keeping the doors locked.


9 thoughts on ““How do you know this address?”: A Case Study in Why We Keep Our Doors Locked

    1. Thanks parents. I’ve got a lot of friends in my neighborhood so hopefully they won’t bother me/us again. It was great Skyping with you this evening. Love you!!!


    1. You’re so right uncle Dave! My counterpart/fellow teacher/Indo-Dad Pak Elvan has told me the same thing on several occasions: “It is nice that you are so friendly, Kelly, but remember that not all Indonesian people have good intentions.” The Wisdom of Uncle Dave (from Florida) is universal. Love you!


    1. Hi Aunt Betsy! Yeah it wasn’t the most positive experience but I told my neighbors about it and they are on hand if something like that happens again. I also told Pak Elvan and Ibu Asro, my counterparts/fellow teachers/surrogate parents, and they reminded me that Ibu Asro’s husband is high up in the police force. So rest assured, I’ve got my local safety network in place and that’s not even counting the folks on staff in Jakarta. Thanks for the support and I’m sending lots of love and warm thoughts your way! ~Kelly


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.