So, when an Indonesian friend suggested that I might want to meet one of the most important people in Bali, who was I to say no? I was the first tourist invited to the headquarters of the head of army intelligence for Bali and two other regions of Indonesia in thirty years! No, this wasn’t an intimidating experience at all…
When we arrived at the check-point at the headquarters, I commented to my friend who accompanied me, “They are probably going to think I’m in trouble!” The guards were very flustered and confused by my presence there, not having checked in a tourist EVER. I offered my Colorado driver’s license as i.d., which, of course, had to be handed all around for viewing. My name always gives people trouble, so that was also repeated all around. We stood nervously and waited to be escorted to the office of “the big boss.”
I was pleasantly surprised that Helmi was NOT in uniform; there were no guns to be found, although “shooting on the range” was an optional activity offered to me that day. Instead we ate bokso, shot the shit about American vs. Indonesian army; not knowing much about either – I mostly listened. The big boss was happy to have an opportunity to practice his English – so happy that he actually called his eleven-year-old son on one of his FIVE cell phones so he could also share this opportunity. (His son clearly was not impressed, as I was a distraction from his soccer video game).
I was a bucket of nerves for most of this visit, but eventually things lightened up and we had another, less formal, photo opportunity.
Helmi and his staff assured throughout my visit that if I ever needed a security detail in Indonesia, I was set. Also if I wanted to party at local bars for free with said security detail, that could be arranged as well.
Helmi and his staff were incredibly down-to-earth and “normal;” the meeting was friendly and informal.
This week Helmi moves on to bigger and better things in Java, where he will supervise an even larger region of army intelligence officers. I have an open invitation to come and visit him and his family in the new headquarters. Indonesian hospitality at its finest!