When I arrived in Salatiga simple tasks were terrifying. But now…
Perhaps you might understand a little of that fear. You grasp the phone and start transfixedly at the numbers you have entered. If you hit dial, someone will address you as Mr. or Mrs. and ask you questions about your what’s-it that broke. You have no idea what that what’s-it is called, and the only reason why you are calling is because there was a friendly sticker on the bottom that said, “For Sales and Service Call: 555-555-5555.”
Did the *gibberish**gibberish**more gibberish*? As your eyes glass over you manage an, “Uhhhhh… I’m not sure.” In the end, somehow they get your address and a creepy dude shows up, says something about “reset button” and your what’s-it works again.
Now, imagine that even the “Did the…” part of the phone conversation and the “reset button” part of the creepy dude’s gibberish also sounded like… “ofnaporif, aiunfabndei sionf.”
Yep, that’s life in another language! When I arrived in Salatiga, the thought of simply walking down the street and getting accosted into a simple conversation that went beyond, “Sup!” was terrifying, and embarrassing. Did I mention embarrassing? And terrifying?
I remember walking into a store to try and buy minutes for my phone. When I left, without any new minutes, the lady there knew two things. She knew I wanted to buy minutes, and that I didn’t know anything else. I repeated this humiliating process at three different shops.
But today was different. And today was a big day.
Our electric meter broke. We still had electric, but the meter stopped counting. So we reported that and the meter was changed for us. Since it took us so long to realize the meter was broken, we had about four months of back pay on the account for normal usage. So I had to go into town and pay.
That meant I had to navigate the system at the electric company (get directions, find it, enter, understand signs, discuss payment necessary, pay, and then confirm if anything else was needed) ALONE.
Eight months ago the thought would have possibly reduced me to tears or bribery.
Today, I didn’t even really think about it.
I am so happy that MAF understands the need for language school and allows their people to be otherwise “unproductive” for a year while learning how to speak Indonesian. It really pays off in the end.