Meet the Ex­pat

Where were you when the Ber­lin Wall came down on Novem­ber 10, 1989? The con­crete block bar­rier, topped by barbed wire and se­cured by armed guards, seg­mented the pop­u­la­tion within the Ger­man cap­i­tal city. It was the last ves­tige of the Cold War, and pushin

Indonesia Expat - - CONTENTS - BY GAIL G. COLLINS

From Four Months to 20 Years: Kim Hes­sel

Where else in the world can you make some­one as happy as be­ing here?

Mem­o­ries of that ex­hil­a­rat­ing pe­riod flashed in Kim Hes­sel’s eyes as he re­mem­bered his part in it. The Dane was work­ing in Copen­hagen and turned on the ra­dio to catch the evening news. “I heard the re­port and was dumb-founded. My friends and I grabbed ev­ery ham­mer we could find, threw them in my Volvo and drove like crazy through the night. We flew at 180km per hour with no one on the road, ex­cept the po­lice.” Hes­sel grinned. “We passed their car on the shoul­der, but he didn't catch us. Af­ter we ar­rived, we joined the crowd, wor­ried that we might be ar­rested.” There was much angst amongst the thou­sands flood­ing the zone, but like the rest, Hes­sel and his crew felt de­ter­mined. “Noth­ing would make us leave.” West Ber­lin sup­port­ers scaled the wall, swung sledge­ham­mers and pulled down hunks of con­crete. And they cel­e­brated. “East Ber­lin­ers cried as they passed through the gates, and the West Ger­man govern­ment handed out 100-Deutsche mark notes to them.”

Hes­sel drove back to Den­mark with three his­toric chunks from the wall in his trunk, sure that an ar­rest waited for them at Check­point Char­lie. “But the guards just shut the trunk with­out a word. It was ex­cit­ing to be alive at that point in his­tory.”

Hes­sel's work in the early com­puter era in­volved what is now re­ferred to as in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy. Dur­ing his stud­ies for an elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing de­gree, a cam­pus talk steered his fi­nal ca­reer in­ter­est. “A man came to talk to an over­flow crowd [ sic] on the cre­ation of the first com­puter for the Navy. He told us of con­tin­u­ously re­plac­ing burned out tubes and parts to achieve only two hours of up­time out of 24. But even at that, the com­puter's ca­pa­bil­i­ties could still out­strip the num­ber of cal­cu­la­tions a man could per­form – it was the fu­ture.” Hes­sel rec­og­nized stand­ing on the precipice of some­thing in­cred­i­ble.

And in­cred­i­ble it is to re­al­ize that to­day's cell phone con­tains more ca­pa­bil­ity than the mam­moth com­puter that guided a space­craft to land man on the moon. Hes­sel's orig­i­nal hard drive held 5MB, and he re­calls re­ceiv­ing a de­sir­able upgrade from a US com­pany that would ex­pand his stor­age to 32MB. “We were pop­ping cham­pagne and cel­e­brat­ing that af­ter that mo­ment, we would never need more space.”

Life holds pos­si­bil­i­ties; they need only to be imag­ined.

When Hes­sel ar­rived in In­done­sia, he was plan­ning to stay for four months. That was 20 years ago.

Like many who seek un­der­wa­ter en­chant­ment, div­ing brought Hes­sel to the Co­ral Tri­an­gle. He was a hob­by­ist, teach­ing other en­thu­si­asts in Den­mark. Sum­mer was busy, but de­spite dry suits, the win­ters were frigid and de­void of cus­tomers. “It cer­tainly made Vik­ings of the ones who dove, so I would take off in the win­ter, as­pir­ing to warmer climes.”

Hes­sel was on the hunt for new places for him and his friends to dive. He found In­done­sia be­fore its world-class reefs were widely known. Manado had the best ac­cess, in­clud­ing Sin­ga­pore for in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers, so he set­tled there. “I made a prom­ise to come home to Den­mark to work the high sea­son, and I did,” Hes­sel said. And then, he re­turned to In­done­sia.

“I was 30 years old at the time.” Hes­sel smiled, happy then and now. “Peo­ple care about each other here, and the div­ing is good. Where else in the world can you make some­one as happy as be­ing here? In­done­sians are warm and ac­com­mo­dat­ing.”

Hes­sel em­braced the place, mar­ried a lo­cal lady, started a fam­ily and built a life around his loves.

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