‘Tis the Season…to Renew My Driver’s License

A diagram showing the steps for obtaining a driver’s license in Indonesia.

A diagram showing the steps for obtaining a driver’s license in Indonesia.

In the middle of Christmas parties, our youngest daughter’s birthday, visitors, and holiday preparations, we have to set aside a day (at least) every December to renew our Indonesian driver’s licenses.

We’ve lived in four different countries with MAF and each driver’s license-obtaining experience has been different. My husband was just reminiscing about getting his first driver’s license in a foreign country ten years ago. He spent four hours at the local police department. He was a “real” missionary, slogging it out among the masses in a hot, crowded, chaotic government office. He came home feeling quite proud of his accomplishment.

Then we moved to another country and had to start the process all over again. We received several temporary licenses and each time we returned to the local “DMV” the process had become more complicated. At one point, we thought we’d have to take a driving class that started days before I was due to deliver our second baby. We got out of that one—and it’s a good thing, too, because my nine-month pregnant belly wouldn’t have fit behind the wheel of a car. Once, while driving to the capital city, we were pulled over and discovered that our temporary licenses had just expired. The officer announced that the penalty for driving with an expired license was a trip to the local jailhouse. We got out of that one as well—I burst into tears and startled the officer so much that he took mercy on us and gave us a warning. After more than a year of trying, we did finally get our permanent driver’s licenses in that country.

Our experience getting driver’s licenses in our current country has been easy by comparison. Except that we always have to go back to get a renewal at the worst possible time of the year. One year, we even had to leave our birthday girl with a babysitter the entire day while we waited for our turn getting photographed and finger-printed.

Most years, we spend hours sitting on hard benches, sweating it out until our number is called. This year we wised up. We went out to our air-conditioned car to wait. After 10 years, maybe we have learned a thing or two.

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