“It will take several days, and Jakarta is awful, so I recommend you hire someone to go around to the offices for you, so you can relax in the pool at the hotel.  Get a hotel with a pool.”  Such was the advice of fellow grad student Geoffrey, over two years ago, as he guided me through the Indonesian research permit process.  He’s done research in Indonesia for many years, and it was immensely helpful to have someone’s candid advice.  He also gave me a written account by another researcher of their Jakarta experience.  It did not make the process seem particularly enjoyable.

Here is a schematic provided by the Ministry of Research and Technology (RISTEK):

It turns out, the process is a little more convoluted than the diagram suggests.

Getting this process started was a huge “elephant on the to-do list” for over a year.  Fortunately, my procrastination meant that RISTEK had impelemented an online application system by the time I got around to applying, which made the initial part of the process much smoother.

There remained, however, the most onerous part of the process: getting the visa to get into the country, and reporting to every vaguely relevant office once in the country.  My plan was to fly in from Bangkok on August 12.  Then, my collaborator – Danielle – pointed out that, unfortunately, my schedule had me coming right at the end of Ramadhan, when offices are closed. How brilliant of me to not check on the timing of a major religious holiday (in my defense, the dates change each year). Changed my plan so that I’d fly in August 6 instead.

I had no idea how long each step would take – I did not know how long to allow for in Jakarta (I’ve been given estimates from 4 days to 10 days to 15), and did not know what offices I’d need to report to in Kalimantan Timur (the province where the field site is).  Indonesia’s Independence Day also fell right in the middle of when I need to be visiting offices.  It was clear that, if I didn’t arrive in Jakarta on August 6 or shortly thereafter, the whole process would be extended by multiple days, and my already-shortened field season of ~4 weeks might be laughably abbreviated.

On the plus side… the government holidays make an excellent time for the diving vacation that I was planning on taking at some point.

What follows is a 4-part, lengthy description of the giant scavenger hunt that stretches over 4 cities in 2 countries over about 3 weeks.  Perhaps it’s tedious reading, but there are a few amusing snippets scattered here and there.