If I Had a Million Rupiah…I’d Buy You a Becak Ride

Amy and Will walking around in the the “city” of Jombang for the first time last Sunday afternoon.

Amy: Where should we eat lunch?

Will: Oh we could go to that nice looking warung we passed earlier! But it’s probably expensive.

Amy (in all seriousness): Maybe, but it’s not going to be expensive like McDonald’s or Pizza Hut.


When we realized how this sounded to our former selves we laughed really hard for a few minutes. It’s amazing how quickly you adjust to the local currency when you are living in it and being paid in it.

During our first few days we asked a current volunteer who had paid 100,000 rupiah (the equivalent of $10) to get to Surabaya if that seemed like a lot of money to him. He responded that he couldn’t remember the last time he spent that much money. At the time we we wondered if we’d ever think that way. We started thinking that way probably a week and a half into training.

During the same trip into Jombang from above, we wanted to go check out the small mall in town. We were instructed to get off the bus at the market, then take a becak (pedicab) the one kilometer or so to the mall and were told it would be about 6,000 rupiah. Before we got in the driver seemed to agree that it should be Rp6,000. But we rode, and we rode, and I’m not sure he knew where we wanted to go the entire time. I clarified a few times, and we kept riding. I knew it was more than a kilometer. At one point I told Will that I felt bad and we should probably just give him Rp10,000 at the end. Well, when we got off the becak, and asked again how much the fare would be he told us it would be Rp60,000. We gave it to him, knowing full well we were getting the tourist price, but also knowing that something had gone wrong with the instructions we had been given. We spent the next 45 minutes wandering around this hot, crowded small mall exclaiming how expensive the becak ride was and wondering where we had gone wrong. When we got home we told our host mom about the experience, and she told my principal, and they couldn’t BELIEVE we paid that much. I think they are afraid to ever let us out of the house again.

But honestly, while we were shocked, SHOCKED, at how much we were charged, at the end of the day it’s $6. And that $6 meant a lot more to that guy than it does to us in the long run. We joked that after he dropped us off, he jumped in a taxi and drove to the airport to catch a flight to Bali.

In this life here where things regularly cost us 20-30 cents and a splurge is a Magnum ice cream bar for $1, one quickly adjusts one’s thinking. The Peace Corps gives us about $150 a month each, and we are each suppose to give about $80 of it to our host family for food and utilities. That leaves us with about $70 a month for extra food, transport, cell phone, Internet and basic necessities. That’s totally doable here too. But it makes $6 seem like a lot.


3 thoughts on “If I Had a Million Rupiah…I’d Buy You a Becak Ride

  1. Hi, Amy – it took me awhile to remember to read your blog, but now I’m addicted. I particularly love your enthusiasm for every new experience – and love to hear about your cooking adventures. Diane

  2. Amy, I thought you’d like to know that the CFTC yesterday issued its final rule defining swaps and creating end-user exceptions. No word yet on changes to the special entity de minimis threshold. Keep your fingers crossed!

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