No, this isn’t the set up for a joke. And no, these aren’t the ingredients for a funny/horror story of being greased up and naked and then needing a lawyer while here in Indonesia.
No, these are just some of the latest vocabulary words that came in a recent conversation with Ibu Evi, Bella, and Rendi: all administrative staff at my school that I spend a lot of time with in between classes. For the first:
“Butter.” In bahasa Indonesia: mantega.
I made no-bake peanut butter cookies over the weekend and they have been a hit, though they need to be eaten shortly after coming out of the freezer because of the intense heat. Like a candy bar, they can still be eaten if they are a little melty but they are less messy if they are served cold.
In the States I love baking and have really missed having access to an oven, but awhile back another ETA mentioned doing no-bake recipes and I was inspired. I found a good recipe on the internet and made a few alterations, like adding granola and using a little less sugar. I don’t have any measuring utensils here so I just eyeballed it. They taste delicious, almost like fudge, which is like nothing that I have eaten here in Indonesia. But people have come back for seconds, so I think people like my cookies/fudge even if it is a little sweeter than most people are used to. I learned the word for butter, mantega, when Ibu Evi asked what ingredients I used.
“Naked.” In bahasa Indonesia: telanjang or bugil.*
Tomorrow morning a lot of teachers and staff members from my school are going to Belitung, an island I went to awhile back with my headmistress, for a school trip. Ibu Evi is in charge of organizing this trip and she has been talking about it for months. After talking about the cookies, we changed topics and talked about the trip to Belitung. She was reminding me to bring clothes for swimming because we are going to do a tour of several small islands that have great snorkeling opportunities. She told me not to bring a bikini, which is not a concern because I left my bikinis in the States. In Indonesia, lightweight track pants and a t-shirt serve as my swim suit. As a joke, I acted shocked and clarified that “Wait, you can’t go swimming naked?”
Ibu Evi squealed and Bella and Rendi laughed; they knew I was kidding. I dress pretty conservatively at all times in Indonesia, although the first thing I do when I get home is shower and then wear as little clothing as possible. But on this trip I will be dressed in a very sopan [polite] fashion. No going telanjang or bugil.
“Lawyer.” In bahasa Indonesia: pengacara.
While talking about plans for Belitung, Ibu Evi mentioned that we would go back to Museum Kata, the Words Museum. This museum is one of my favorite places in Indonesia thus far. Last time we were there, I met a family there on a family reunion. We took lots of photos and they invited me to join their family trip, which I had to decline because I was with my headmistress.
However, I exchanged contact info with one of the family members and we kept in touch after that. The woman I kept in contact with lived in Jakarta so on my way home from Thailand I asked to meet up since I had a five-hour layover in the Big Durian [a.k.a. Jakarta]. She agreed and met me at the airport with one of her friends/cousins. They took me to a hotel where other people in the family were having a meeting or event of some kind. Some of them I remembered, others I didn’t. We took photos anyway.
Then they wanted to treat me to lunch in the hotel restaurant and give me presents for my birthday that recently passed and order an ice cream sundae from room service, all of which made me a little uncomfortable. I remembered the advice given to me by Pak Elvan, my superstar counterpart. He told me never to accept things from people who I do not know. Reciprocity is a huge deal in Indonesian culture. There is no such thing as a free lunch no matter where you are in the world. I didn’t order anything at lunch but the birthday gifts (some scarves that I gave away to victims of the flood) I could not refuse without being extremely rude.
Once they finished eating lunch, the real reason why they kept in touch with me came out: they wanted me to come to Jakarta every weekend to teach English to different government employees. They said they would pay for the flights and hotel and would give me a nice salary. I said no on so many levels. Even if my Fulbright grant and my Indonesian visa allowed such a thing, I would have no interest in spending my weekends working and commuting to Jakarta. No, no, and did I mention… no. I refused as politely as possible. They took me back to the airport afterward, a little put off and reminding me of how they had been treating me as their special guest. But it didn’t stop there.
They called me almost every day afterward, asking how I was and having me speak with various kids to whom they promised I would come visit and teach English. Ugh. But the cord was finally severed when the lady I had kept in touch with called me several times in a row on a Thursday evening. I was busy teaching the Bukit Tani English Club (the English Club Caitlin and I run for the neighborhood kids on Thursday nights) at the time. After English Club was over I checked me phone and saw these messages:
The last message that is written in bahasa Indonesia says “My friend is in jail in Pangkal Pinang… Maybe your friend can help me find a lawyer because I know that he works at DPRD** in Pangkal Pinang.” (Lawyer, pengacara, is highlighted in blue.) I never answered her and never heard from her again, thank goodness.
I related this story to Ibu Evi and Bella and they assured me that I am not incorrect in my assessment of this situation, that these people did not actually want to be friends with me; rather, they wanted things from me. People like that exist all over the world and I know that going forward I will be well-served in following Pak Elvan’s advice and not accepting “free” things from strangers and Uncle Dave’s similar advice that instant friends are not real friends.
So it turns out that “butter,” “naked,” and “lawyer” don’t have much in common besides sharing space in my language notebook, but that’s probably for the best.
* Indonesians love word play. There are endless acronyms and contractions, which can be confusing at first but quickly becomes fun once your language skills are a little higher. Another ETA told me that some people called her bugil, a contraction of bule gila, before she knew that bugil also means naked. Gila means crazy and bule is a word that refers to foreigners (especially white-skinned foreigners) although it literally means “albino.” It can be derogatory in some settings but rarely take offense to it and often refer to myself and my friends as bule, which gets a chuckle out of most Indonesians.
** DPRD is yet another Indonesian acronym. It stands for Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah, which Google Translate says means Regional People’s Representative Assembly. I have visited the DPRD office, and from what I can understand its functions are as follows:
– It is the headquarters for the various political factions that exist in Indonesia. Each major faction gets an office and all of the offices are next to each other. I thought this was a sign of cooperation and progress, but when I mentioned this to another Indonesian friend she assured me that behind the scenes there is a lot of backstabbing like any other political game. Oh well.
– The DPRD is also the local parliament just like how in the U.S. each state has its own Senate and House of Representatives. These folks may or may not be the same folks who are in the national House of Representatives in Jakarta. Either way, I know that the big-wigs from the DPRD travel a lot.
– The DPRD is involved in taxes. I’ve got the inside scoop on which entities pay their taxes and which ones are notoriously behind on payments.