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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The day I ironed the dictionary

This is a picture of the day I hiked up Panderman mountain.
But this is a story of a different day, the day I ironed the dictionary.

I got up at 4:00. That’s when I usually get up. I studied Bahasa Indonesia, then took a mandi bath, ate breakfast: white rice, a fried egg, fried tofu, green beans and onions and hot tea, dressed in my long black skirt and white blouse and black closed toe shoes for teaching at school. (No sandals, clothes need to be very conservative when you are teaching.) Then I said goodbye to my Ibu and Bapak, asking for permission to go to school, walked 10 minutes down the hill, then turned left, 5 minutes towards Scott’s house, met him walking toward the village, and turned around to join him as we back toward the village. (Usually I just turn right at the bottom of my hill and go to the center of the village. It takes about 15-25 minutes to walk to the place where we hold classes, which is a minute away from Maggie’s house. The time varies based on how many people I stop and chat with along the way.)

By 7:00 we got to Maggie’s house, but instead I went across the street to a house with a sign that said “Sewing Classes.” I had learned the word “to sew’ the day before and I asked the Ibu there if she had any black fabric and could she please sew the strap on my backpack. She said yes, but when I asked her how much, she said no charge because it was so little. A strip about an inch wide and 5 inches long needed to be added and sewn on all sides with hand stitches, but I didn’t have any fabric and was willing to pay to get it done, because I use the backpack every day and it needs to last for another 2 years. Then we got a ride with Pak Habib, from the University, to our school in Malang where we student teach. On the way he told us lots of stories about Madura, which is a large island off the coast of East Java. Our host families here are concerned because the people there are not as “refined” as most people on East Java. They tend to be loud and coarse (More like Americans.) and several of us will possibly go there for our permanent assignments.

At the High School Andy and I were assigned to the tourism English teacher and attended 3 of her classes. This was ‘grand finale” day for her classes. They had been preparing TV scripts that they had written and they performed them for us. It was amazing. I had to concentrate a lot because it was hard to understand their English, but the skits were great! TV commercials about perfume that seduces whatever girl you want, bug spray that mothers put on their daughters while they are eating bread, game shows where the girls pick the bachelor of their choice, news programs about super heroes, kids with guitars singing English songs! What a treat. Each student wore their number – there are 40 per class at this elite “international standards” school and we graded each student on their performance and English speaking. At the end of each class we discussed what we loved about the shows. The kids all stood together with us in the middle and took pictures. The last class was the most fun, all of us were on our feet dancing to the music and laughing at the Academy Awards for most handsome student and most quiet, etc. The kids gave Andy and me an award too.

After student teaching, we were driven back to our village and the sewing lady had left my backpack at Maggie’s house. I asked what would be appropriate to give her and Maggie suggested a pair of earrings that I had made in the States. I have several necklaces and earrings with me. She did a great job and I really don’t want to take advantage of my privileged “white person” status.

We went to our village office where language class is held and ate our lunch boxes (literal translation: rice boxes) that our mothers had fixed. Mine was the same as breakfast. Usually my mother fixes food in the morning and we eat that for that day. Sometimes there is extra food at night, but she gets all the tofu and vegetables fresh while it is still dark each morning. I sometimes go with her and watch her pick out the produce and shrimp and fish. I haven’t seen her buy chicken. We do have chickens in our yard and a rooster who is kept under a bamboo bird cage, but I’m gone in the middle of each day and I have no idea who kills the chickens.

We spent the afternoon with Teguh, our language instructor, studying verbs and how they get changed to make them more formal. It was a great review. I really like it when we go slow and just learn one new word at a time. I try to pick out a few that I really want to learn and just let the rest swim in a dark cave in the back of my brain in hopes that someday they will reach the light at the surface. My head was exhausted by 4:30 when we quit.

It had begun pouring rain and several times the lights went out in the little office where our classes are held. When we were ready to head home, Scott took off his shoes and walked barefoot. It didn’t look that deep and I started off with shoes on. At the main road the water was 4 to 6 inches deep. I took the shoes and socks off and began the 15 minute walk back to my house. It was raining so hard that I was getting in under the umbrella. I stopped and nodded and laughed and wished people who were on their porches “Good evening.” as I slowly walked up the hill.

When I got home my Bapak and Ibu were laughing. We had a discussion about how usually only children take off their shoes to walk in the rain. I explained that I looked for the mini buses that run up my road, but there were none and the water was way too deep to keep my good shoes on. Ibu gave me a cup of hot tea.

Then I took every thing off, took another mandi bath (You are expected to bathe twice a day here.) and went back to my room to study some more. I opened the backpack to discover that water had somehow gotten inside my backpack and all the pages of my dictionary were wet. I use this dictionary maybe 50 times a day. It’s more important than the shoes, the backpack and all my clothes combined. Many of the dictionaries you can get here are just not accurate.

I asked my Ibu for the iron and for the next 45 minutes, ironed every one of the 625 pages in my Indonesian/English dictionary.

Ibu made me quit part way through to eat dinner: white rice, fried chicken, noodles with vegetables, fried tofu and more tea.

I did my homework, writing a story about what happened last weekend, let my Ibu suggest changes, then read it to my extended family, who laughed and suggested a few more changes. (I was trying to describe the mud on my pants and I think I used the word chocolate which can mean brown and also candy, the wrong way.)

At 9:00 I asked for permission to go to sleep, turned off the light and listened to a mosquito. There are stripped ones and ones that bite you with their butt up. Some bite in the evening, some in the morning. Some carry Dengue fever and some carry Malaria. I can’t remember which is which. We’ll have a test on it in another few weeks. Oh well, maybe by then I’ll remember.

That’s the story of the day I ironed the dictionary.

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