Thursday, February 28, 2008

February 28, 2008

With all our talk of negative personalities at work, profiles of reptiles, fashion critiques of the expats, one might think this blog has become less of an overview about adjusting to life in Indonesia and more a record of two people’s descent into madness.

While that might be true, there are actually some very nice aspects here in Makassar. There are people we come in contact with regularly who make us feel like we aren’t freaks on display for a whole city to point at. People who like us.

After working for years in the service industry I’m finally one those regulars the staff greet by name. Sarah and I have our “usual” drinks, and our baristas make them just the way we like them. I always wanted to be on this side of the relationship. Juanda (pronounced Joo-AHN-da) and Danda (DAHN-da) at J.CO Donuts and Coffee are great. Our first time there they gave me an Americano (espresso and hot water) instead of regular drip coffee. I wrote a comment that said I’d rather have regular coffee and got a reply via email the next day. Now they make a fresh press pot of Sumatra every day just for me. They add an extra shot of espresso to Sarah’s iced latte too.

This is a very nice daily luxury for two people who lived in the Pacific Northwest for ten or eleven years. I wrote to J.CO the other week and thanked them for their fine service. This was their reply:

Dear Mr/s JPeter,
Hi Mr/s JPeter, Thanks for your comment of our job.i have you get comfortable and enjoy on J.CO Mall Ratu Indah.
you are our best customer :>

No. Thank you.

There is a very bright class of fifteen-year-old students at English First. Sarah taught them a few months ago, and now I’m teaching them. (EF changes class teachers approximately every two to three months, the length of one term.) They’re pretty proficient and like to discuss such things as Soeharto’s recent death, sex before marriage, vegetarianism and also like telling jokes. They are a challenge to teach – that is, to keep the class challenging enough so they don’t get bored. So we’ve translated Indonesian poetry. We’ve also listened to Johnny Cash (they think he sounds kind of funny), the great crooner Johnny Hartman (kind of boring, they said) and the song “Cleveland Rocks” (they liked that one a lot). We’ve spent one class just talking at a coffee shop too.

They wrote their own poem for me. Only they wrote it about themselves in the persona of me, their teacher. (What follows is slightly edited by me to help it make a little more sense.)

My Students, My Diamonds

Peter, that’s my name
Paul, is my nickname
I’m a tooth that shines brightly
I’m smiling table
My students are my soul

I said to them,
If you are the stars
I’m the moon
If [I am] the stamp
[You] are the envelope.
Even if Sarah is [my] cupcake…
But [you] are the sugar…
That giving taste to your

I think this might be one of the most amazing things ever given to me. It helps on those nights I can’t hear myself think and want to duct-tape their mouths shut.

Makassar also gives us the guy who says, “Hello, chickadee!” every night we pass by. There’s also the security guard outside a big oil and business complex who always says hello a gives us the thumbs-up. Our own building’s security/fix-it men Jama (JAH-ma) and Rici (RICH-ee) are always kind with the little English they know. Rici gets us our water for us each week.

These people help us feel adjusted and like fellow humans. Not the circus. We wish we could bring them to the States for you to meet. But if we ever do, please don’t point.

1 comment:

A Knutson said...

Isn't it amazing how much students can touch our lives as well as drive us crazy??? I just had one of those teaching days that makes me want to pull all of my (unstyled, and uncut - sorry, Sarah, I'd probably be as bad as the lady with the gecko shirt) hair out :)