Saturday, 11 December 2010

An emotional week: Kuningan, Crying, Secret Santa... and Tony!

So this week has been particularly stressful. I spent last weekend pretty much working, cooking Indonesian food and getting pissed. It was the Christmas Quiz for all the schools in our group so I got bladdered for the first time in ages and spent lots of cash with nothing to show but a sore head and a reawakening to just how shit my general knowledge is ;)... I also met a very busy Indonesian friend who I probably won't get to meet again so I pretty much ended up spending all day Sunday with her getting steaming, eating and going to the cinema. Not very productive but possibly a needed blowout and break from my working routine. Travelling between schools is getting kind of stressful as I'm not at the same school on any two consecutive days. I've also been on the end of a pretty demanding schedule but it's looking a bit calmer now... I hope!


Tuesday was a bank holiday here for the Islamic New Year and myself and another colleague saw it as a perfect opportunity to spend some time in a more social light with our office boys. We decided to hire a car and driver from the school for the day and travel to their village. It's quite a distance from Jakarta, and travelling by road in Java is always a nightmare. This journey was relatively smooth and as we left in the night gave us plenty of time to catch a nap once we had arrived. Relatively smooth in that we didn't die! We got there quickly but our driver Tony is a bit of a space cadet... a lovely bloke but a little bit mental... in a nice way... We arrived in their village around four in the morning and arrived to a wealth of snacks and some coffee. It was a really nice village and I was surprised by how clean and green it was. I was expecting it to be a bit dirtier – as Java is a pretty dirty place – but nonetheless I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. It was quite funny when Reno – the senior office boy (he gets to drive the motorbike) – apologised in advance for his family's home not being clean and tidy (he must think my Mum is a domestic goddess...); I was also touched by his concern that I wouldn't have access to bread for the day... Bless him, he must think that I walk around with bread on a drip tap like some kind of Kingsmill Zombie!... It was a really nice trip and Reno had nothing to worry about, his family's kindness and hospitality was brilliant and they were really a pleasure to meet. In fact, Reno's Mum's deep fried carp was the only whole crispy deep fried Indonesian fish that I've enjoyed so far. I'd previously heard before that you could chew the bones with relative ease if the fish is cooked properly... it was and I did. So in that regard she hit the nail on the head!...



After breakfast we visited Aldi's parents and had some food there too. We had only just eaten though and were still full from the meal we'd had 10 minutes prior. Indonesian hospitality is somewhat intimidating to the western visitor as the host places a spread in front of you usually including, but not limited to: rice, fish, chicken, vegetables, tempe or tofu, sambal and then coffee water and desert or fruit as well. You have the honour of eating first and in my experience seem to be expected to finish first before the host. Indonesians don't really discuss much when they eat, they just eat, and food is prepared to last the whole day and feed the family in its entirety for at least one meal. So when I say they place a wide variety of food in front of you, what I actually mean is that they place all of the food for the family that day in front of you and it's the unwritten rule that you help yourself to enough of the food to feel satisfied but not too much as to prevent someone else from being able to eat later. Of course, nobody tells you this, so you feel obliged to eat as much as you can because you think that you are being polite!... Cultural differences between Indonesia and the West are vast and often I'm sure I offend many people on a regular basis without realising, but as it's impolite to disrupt the decorum in public nobody will ever tell you or so much as let on that you've offended them, in case they upset you! Sufficed to say I hadn't fallen into the trap of eating too much and managed to make some room for the food Aldi's mother had laid on, a spread of fruit and bread which meant that I could eat more!... The coconut bread she had bought was really nice and I've never seen it before – the brand was the generic Sari Roti and I have great disdain for the sweetened shit they sell as standard bread – but if I find the coconut one I'll probably have a bash the next time I see it in the supermarket!...



The rest of our time in Kuningan was pretty nice – although towards the end of the day we were all tired and not looking forward to the 4+ hour drive home!... We visited a local waterfall called Curug Sidomba and a nice big lake called Waduk Darma. The vibes around the attractions were nice and surprisingly for Java the access was pretty easy. I didn't have to do any trekking! It was quite funny today as I was approached by one of the local street sellers – seems that he goes by the name 'Ketoprak Man' as that's the dish that he so skilfully prepares – and he invited me to his village for the Christmas holidays... I'm not sure if he's looking for a free lift home, to show-off his bule mates or is actually extending a genuine invitation, but I'm already booked-up for Christmas and had to decline! ;)... Aldi must have been boasting when he was sent to buy food for the lazy wankers in the office that abuse him. I hate the demoralising nature of life here if you are a subordinate to anyone as it seems that humilation knows no bounds... they have a doorbell to summon the office boys but no distinctive tone so there is usually a competition between the upstairs and downstairs offices for the attention of the office boys to do whatever mundane chores need attending to. Not only is it degrading but it disrupts lessons when they press it 6-8 times consecutively because they're too important to wait a few seconds between presses!... I appreciate that coffee contains caffeine and is mildly addictive but they act like rich heroin junkies summoning their butlers for a fix!



The rest of the week has flown since then. We had Secret Santa yesterday. That was really nice and Reno and Aldi got a decent present each so I think they had a pretty good week. I did okay, I got a girly pink photo frame with "happy bear" written on it. It's from Aldi and it's a really nice gesture, I've never really been sentimental enough to buy a photoframe so I'm quite happy with it.
After the Secret Santa was over and I was waiting for my lift to the other school in Cengkareng, I bumped into one of my old highflyer students – she's about 9 – and I used to spend a bit of my lesson planning time with her, because she's around the school a lot and a really nice kid. I usually watch some crap on youtube with her which is exactly what we did while I was waiting for the car...
She's such a sweet kid and is usually hanging around the school for eight hours a day before and after lessons, needless to say her parents could do more than leave her in reception for the majority of that time. Just before I left she asked me when I was going to teach her again and told me that she missed me before inviting me to an extracurricular class in two weeks making Christmas Cards that I won't be able to attend... because I'll be working in another part of the city :(... Needless to say I was choking on tears that I was holding back for the 40 minute or so drive to the other school and then had to hide in the toilet until my tears had subsided – or until I thought they had! - she is such a nice kid and it's heartbreaking that she doesn't get the attention she needs and now I can't even give her 20 minutes out of my day. She's the same girl in the birthday cake story. After finally getting over it – or so I thought – I entered the staffroom there to start planning my lessons to find out that I'd been hiding in the ladies toilets and when asked if I was okay I kind of burst into tears again!... I don't cry that often but when I do – mainly when I feel that I'm helpless in a situation – I'm like a fat girl that's just been dumped before she's found the ice cream... or the cookies!!!... It's not all bad though, it is highly likely that I'll have time to visit the school on Christmas eve before I start work in Cengkareng and will try and buy her something nice for Christmas to make her smile...

X


P.S. On the way back from work I had cheered up quite a lot as I'd been teaching some lazy teenagers who were quite funny. During the drive, Tony was being his usual mental self, getting angry and speeding in bumper to bumper traffic while shouting expletives in Indonesian and his own brand of English... "Pucking Motorr!!!"... Loosely translated from Bahasa Tony to English I think it means "Fucking Motorbikes!..."... Normally his craziness doesn't make me laugh that much – as I'm used to it – but during some funk tune that was on one of the Jakarta stations he's into, there was a psychodelic funk song with a sample saying "that dance!" although it sounded exactly like "Bat Man!" from the Adam West show of the 1970s.... So I was howling with laughter for about five minutes while it was playing and he was getting irate and aggressive with half of the traffic in West Jakarta!... I imagine that song to pretty much summarise his entire thought process for the whole day!... After leaving the car and saying bye – still giggling and chuckling – I had a flashback to earlier in the day where I was leaving the car to walk to the school and trying not to cry and Tony just asked with the most vacant of stares "Are you okay mister?"... I've included a photo below so that you can share a little bit of Tony's magic!... I've also included a photo from the halloween party with the wonderful little girl that gets me so emotional...



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