I’m standing at stiff attention in my too-tight fitting red jogging suit.  The instructor paces through the hotel conference room full of 25 Indonesians and foreigners, all wearing the same red uniforms, to inspect our stances.  He suddenly calls for an about-face.


My timing is a little off, as I actually spin the wrong way, and it’s obvious to all.  The instructor parks his demanding persona in front of me, and in a surprisingly polite way, asks me to drop and give him five.  The American who is on my left side, who has already been giggling throughout this whole exercise, erupts into volcanic laughter.


I try to be a good sport and drop down to do my five push-ups of penance.  The whole room applauds.


He barks at us for more left turns, right turns and about-faces.


 “Sit down!” he suddenly yells.


“Thank you sir!” as we all quickly obey.


“Stand up!”


“Yes sir!”


“How is your strength?”


“Five-Five,” we yell in unison with two pumped fists, meaning  5 out of 5 on mental and physical stamina.


“Codass Indonesia!” (the name of the company that is doing this “outbound training”)


“Best friend!” we all respond as we shoot our arms forward and give the thumbs-up sign.


And again.  “Codass Indonesia!”


“Best friend!”  Two thumbs up.


“Are you ready for a new challenge?”


“Ready,” everyone shouts with spirit.



Not me.  I’m not ready.  I’m making my exit strategy.  Maybe as we are all marching off to the parking lot for another challenge game I will just slip out and scoot away on my motorcycle.  It’s already 10 PM and I’m dog tired.  I thought this was going to be a boring governmental meeting, lasting maybe two hours tops, and I’ve already been at this hotel since 5PM with my fellow foreigners-turned-soldiers.  Too many of my American Constitutional Rights have already been trampled on during these first five hours and I can’t imagine lasting two more full days of this.


The bizarre meeting is the opening session of a three-day training put on by the city’s department of labor and outsourced to a very zealous group of trainers, my new best friends.  The labor department is one of three governmental agencies those of us needing work visas deal with here.  We all pay $100 a month as a foreigners’ tax and word on the street is this agency is getting heat from their higher-ups to show what they are doing with all that money.  There’s a lot of money going in but not a lot of receipts showing money going out.



So what better way to splurge on us foreigners by demanding that we attend a three-day retreat with the theme of military discipline and team building?  Included are two nights at a hotel with all meals paid, a transportation allowance of $15, plus a groovy red leisure suit that I wish was American XL and not Indonesian XL.


Out of the 40 organizations that were invited, those in our city hosting foreign employees, only 20 are represented.  I heard from a “pengurus”—a warrior advocate whose full-time job is to overcome governmental bureaucracy—that if you ignore meetings and events like this it can make the next visa processing round even more difficult.  Most of the people here are of that profession, along with a few token foreigners from their organizations.  Like me, all of them are trying to figure out how to wiggle out of this.


The next two days are not as intense, but often punctuated with shouts of “Codass Indonesia” and the obligatory reply, “Best Friend” (effective and hypnotic marketing strategy).  We do a lot of team building exercises like making up cheers and challenges like rope courses and tower building.


It’s actually not all that bad, but I still duck in and out of the schedule, due to other important things I explain to my trainers I must attend to, but really due to the fact that I am a spoiled and entitled American and don’t like submitting to things that don’t make sense.   The days start at 5:30AM and end at 11PM.  I have to apologize for missing certain things on the schedule, like the late night dance-around-the-campfire and the early morning yoga by the pool.  All the Indonesians attend every session and press in to all the activities with good spirits.


I am the entitled, spoiled, pampered American grumbling the whole way through.  These Indonesians are fully pressing in and embracing all of the schedule’s inconveniences and physical challenges.  They joke and laugh a lot the whole way through.


While they were trying to learn something new to take home with them, I could only think of the exit doors that led back toward home.  I didn’t really get much out of the exercise, but I was very inspired by the can-do, non-entitled attitude of my Indonesian teammates.


They are my heroes. 


“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” (Philippians 2:14-15).