Monday, April 20, 2015

Bahasa Indonesia, part dua

I wrote yesterday's post about my lagging language skills with the intention of a follow up today.  But within the past 12 hours, circumstances have changed.

I planned to write about a dilemma and a fear.  You see, I've gotten a part-time job with the embassy.  I'm excited about this job, not only as an interesting position in an interesting office.  But also as a perfect entree back into the working world.  It smooths out my resume beautifully. But I also have an exciting volunteer opportunity.   Kampung Kids is a yayasan in my neighborhood.  It is a non-profit that teaches kids from the kampung, literally the village but colloquially the little village style neighborhoods within the city, with very small and simple homes, often prone to flooding.

The teachers are volunteers and build their own curriculum, but they focus on school readiness.  In Indonesia, kids begin school at 7 years old.  Kampung Kids essentially teaches preschool - colors and letters and numbers.  Many of the teachers are expats and the students and families are excited to participate. 

I volunteered to bring my music classes to Kampung Kids on a weekly basis, and felt so excited at the prospect.  This is my dream life - maintain a schedule flexible enough to be at home whenever my children need me, to study the local language and to volunteer in a significant way.  Teaching at Kampung Kids would serve bullet points two AND three.  Boom!

But as it so often happens, these two points in time collided.  The point in time where I could volunteer significantly in my local community, and the point in time where I need to go back to work. 

This was a dilemma yesterday, as I waited for my security clearance.  It could be December before I receive my security clearance.  Do I commit to teaching at Kampung Kids until it comes through?  Or do I assume that my clearance will come quickly, and not make a commitment I am unwilling to keep?

I decided - clearance will take months.  I will volunteer.

Coupled inherently with this opportunity yesterday was fear. Teaching my music classes to families from the embassy community has been challenging.  I've been pushed to explore marketing in new ways, to commit much more time than planned, and to up my game as a teacher.  And so far, I only teach people who speak and understand English.  Teaching in the kampung, I would be the only person in the room who speaks English.  I would also be the only person in the room who does not speak bahasa Indonesia.  Also, I would be the only person in the room old enough not to cry when I'm frustrated.  What if I can't control the class?  What if a child cries and I can't comfort her?  What if I thoroughly fail? 

Dave convinced me that fear of failure is hardly a reason to avoid living the life I want to live, so I resolved to begin teaching next week.  And then I checked my email, and found a message from human resources at the embassy.  My security clearance is complete.  I go back to work in May.

I know - you need a good resolution to the story here.  So do I.  I'm left conflicted.  Phew - I do not have to face this crazy high chance of failure, as a teacher and as a language learner.  Hooray!  I get to begin this cool job soon, and start earning a paycheck.  Damn - At the first true opportunity, I am selling out.  Thus is life, I suppose.  But I must admit, I'm excited about where I'm going.

Bahasa Indonesia

I've been studying bahasa Indonesia for 12 weeks now.  I take a weekly class, so I've logged a whopping 18 hours of local language study since 2015 began.  I've been feeling a bit stalled in my past few classes - like I should know the word, but it just doesn't come to my head.  My teachers tell me I need to practice.  I answer that with so little vocabulary, it is difficult to practice.  They look at me like they can't comprehend what I've just said.  I realize I'm offering excuses and we all move on with our day.

Knowing that they are correct, I resolved to speak in bahasa Indonesia (the Indonesian language) whenever able this week.  I went to the grocery store and placed my order at the meat counter in the local language.

Me: Mao ini.  (I want this)

Guy at the meat counter:  How much would you like?

His meat counter English is pretty good.

Me:  Um, darn it, how do you say 700?

Guy at the meat counter:  tujuh ratus

Me:  Oh yeah!  Tujuh ratus grams Australian minced beef.

It was labelled in English.  No need to further complicate things.

So then I walked to the other side of the meat counter, feeling confident.  This time I tried for the deli ham, kept in its own case because pork belongs in hidden corners of Indonesian groceries.

Me:  Mao ini.  (Remember?  I want this)

Guy at the other meat counter:  How much would you like?

Me:  (with confidence)  Etam grams.

Guy at the other meat counter:  Sorry?

Me:  Um, darn it, how do you say 4?

Guy at the meat counter:  Enam.

Me:  Oh yeah!  Saya mao enam (I want four).

Guy at the meat counter:  Enam ratus? (four hundred?)

Me:  Yeah.  Enam ratus.

See?  I've totally got this.

So, having clearly displayed my language skills, I was emboldened to try again.  The next day, I walked to my music class.  Class is very close to my house - I just need to walk through a manned gate.  Usually I drive because I bring so many instruments and materials with me, but our car was busy that day.  So I just planned to walk half of my instruments to the gate, leave them with the guards, and then return with the other half of my instruments.  Then I'd do the same thing at the other side of the gate.  The gate would serve as my midway.

As I approached the gate with my three bags of books, CDs and dancing scarves, the guard began to open it for me.  Beloum, I called out.  Not yet.  He closed the gate and I set down my things.  One minute I said, and I walked away.

When I returned with my boxes full of instruments, my bags had moved into the guard shack and the contents had been spread across their desk in a clearly puzzled fashion.  It seems I somehow implied that I was delivering gifts, rather than simply setting down my bags.  Surprised, I packed everything back up and carried it back out.  Maaf, I said.  Sorry!  I had no more vocabulary, and I felt bad for embarrassing them. 

The guard replied, in perfect English, No problem.  I'm sorry for the misunderstanding.  Would you like me to help you carry your things?

Yes please, I replied meekly.