My Indonesian Home Makeover Part 3: The First Updates

If you are going to be a home owner, or renter, in Indonesia, there’s one word you should learn in the Indonesian immediately. It’s the word tukang [pronounced too-kahng]. A tukang is the person you call when there’s a leak in your pipes, a hole in the roof, walls that need painting, tile that needs laid, or doors that need fixing. A tukang is a handyman. Some have specialities, like a tukang pipa is a plumber or a tukang listrik is an electrician. When we moved into our new home and took stock of all the changes that needed to be made, we knew we had to find ourselves a tukang.

Indonesia doesn’t have the yellow pages or even a Google listing of all the tukang in your area. I wish it was that easy. Just like most things in Indonesia, finding a tukang is done through who you know. We started by asking our friends who have lived in the area for a few months. We asked the manager of a hotel we stayed at last year. We even asked at the building supply store when we were buying tools and gear for our house. We got a few numbers, so we began to call and schedule a tukang for the first updates to our new home. We invited him over to meet him and explain some of the tasks we were hoping to do first.

We decided to start with some new paint. We were going to be out of our house for a few days, but had some friends staying at our place during that time. We planned to get the master bedroom painted while we were out. We went to the paint store and poured over sample books. We brought one home and held it up to our walls. A coat of paint can do wonders in a room. We decided to go with a pale gray, which would accent the dark hardwood details of our room nicely. We bought the paint, and the painting supplies. We scheduled our tukang. We left our list of tasks. And we left the house for a few days.

While painting was the biggest task, it was not the only task. We also wanted him to hang a shower curtain rod, a toilet paper holder, a towel rack, and move the shower head. We were also he could cover up some the openings in our ornate doorway which was allowing the air conditioning to escape. Maybe you are thinking, couldn’t you do all this yourself? And yes, maybe we could have. But without the right tools, like a drill for the concrete walls our house is made out of, we would struggling to accomplish anything. We had to balance the cost of time/stress/cultural barriers with the cost of the tukang. And $35 for 2 days worth of work seemed like a reasonable cost.

We learned something new about Indonesian culture when it comes to paint, which could have been a disaster. Apparently, it is really common to add water to the local chalky type of paint before painting your walls. While this does nothing but damage to the quality of your paint, I can only assume it is only a cost saving tactic. But either way, we did not want our international quality, easy to clean, high gloss paint to be watery when applied. Thankfully, we were able to communicate to this our tukang BEFORE he started painting!

Master bedroom after new paint

We were pretty excited to get photos along the way, and return to see the finished product. The paint looked awesome, and we were really happy with the color we chose. I’m definitely looking forward to getting the rest of the walls painted! All of our minor fixes were completed with no problem…except one. When our tukang went to drill the first holes and hang the shower curtain rod, he quickly realized a big problem in our bathroom.

Two of the four walls, which are perimeter walls, were not fully reinforced when built. As in, the bottom half of the walls used an appropriate mix of sand and concrete, but the higher you go, the more you realize the wall has the crumbling stability of a beach sand castle. Quite possibly, it’s just the mortar and tile holding the wall up. So if any weight is put on either of these two walls, it will not hold. Maybe the whole wall will come down. So we either could rebuild two entire walls or just not hang things on them and hope they hold for three years! We decided the latter for now. Thankfully, the weight of the shower curtain rod & curtain were not enough to bring it down!

Because getting that shower curtain was quite a process itself. Pouring water over your head with a bucket is the traditional form of personal hygiene so not too many stores in our new town sell shower curtains, and if so, they are very bright & patterned. I was hoping for a minimalist look for our bathroom, as we already have FOUR tile patterns going on. So I turned to IKEA. IKEA has been in Indonesia for a few years, but the only store is in Jakarta. It’s only been in the past year that the IKEA Indonesia website has started online shopping & delivery! As with many new things in Indonesia, I was a bit skeptical it would work. So I ordered a $5 shower curtain as a test order. And a couple weeks later, I got a call from the post office that it had arrived and I could pick it up! However, it did not come with shower curtain rings, so began the next search for the rings! I found some that would work and finally hung my shower curtain. It’s the little victories, right?!

Our bathroom, as well as the rest of the house, is far from the way we want it. I mean, we still don’t have a bathroom sink. But we’ve made a start. The first step in making it our home.

To read earlier posts in this series about how we found our home and some of the quirky parts of this new place, click here.

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