From Berita Bahasa Indonesia 4, 2004

Study at Pusat Bahasa, Universitas Mataram, Lombok

The aim of my recent long-service leave was to visit Indonesia to improve my Indonesian language skills and at the same time research the coconut industry as an example of an environmentally sustainable agricultural system.

Being self-funded, I needed a moderately priced language course. Indonesian teacher Vana Ford from Byabarra Public School had recommended the Pusat Bahasa at the University of Mataram. At first the Rp3.500.000 figure seemed prohibitive, but when translated into $A570, this was excellent value!

The only glitch occurred when I turned up at the Pusat Bahasa for the first day's lessons to find it closed. It was a public holiday -somehow there had been a mix-up in communications. However, the extra day to settle in was useful. The next day I met the friendly and committed staff of the Language Centre. Dr Priyono, the course coordinator, had allocated two highly qualified instructors to see me through the four- week course. Pak Sudirman and Pak Muhaimi are both linguistics experts and senior lecturers in the School of English at the University of Mataram.

The first week was spent in much-needed language revision. From then on, the program was varied to include an in-depth study of the many uses of the coconut tree (the Tree of Life). We followed the action learning cycle of planning, action, monitoring and reflection. Every morning one of my teachers would give background knowledge of an aspect of the coconut industry in Lombok and Indonesia. He would introduce new vocabulary using the "what do we know about?" and "what do we want to find out about?" approach. . The staff at the Pusat Bahasa were enthusiastic about this language-in-action approach, as they were learning about coconuts too! The afternoons were usually spent on fieldwork. I would set off on my rented motorbike, on the lookout for anything to do with coconuts. Stopping continually to make enquiries and request permission to take photos meant plenty of language practice. It also provided valuable first-hand field knowledge of the subject. Sometimes I saw coconuts where there weren't even any e. g. I felt a bit embarrassed after having set up photos of roadside stalls selling coconut-leaf hut thatching, to be informed that the coconut leaves were in fact some type of swamp grass! On some afternoons, Pak Sudirman arranged trips in his van to interesting locations around Lombok. He made a special effort to arrange tours of a coconut-processing centre, a coconut oil factory etc.

On the following mornings in the classroom, I would attempt to recount /reflect on the discoveries of the previous day using Bahasa Indonesia. We would then plan the next day's study. The Monday through to Thursday course timetable was ideal for my needs, as it allowed three-day weekends. Arrangements for weekend excursions were made with the help of the university staff, who were only too willing to advise. The first weekend was spent on a rented motorbike exploring Lombok. My favourite ride was along the spectacular west coast road north from Ampenan and Sengiggi to the town of Pemenang. From there the road turns inland and follows a very scenic river valley lined with sawah, villages and of course the ubiquitous coconut palms. At the head of the valley, the road winds up through heavily forested hills to the pass at Pusuk. Along the roadside can be seen dozens of monkeys, waiting for scraps of food thrown from passing vehicles. On the other side of the pass, the road winds down gradually through forests, then rice fields, villages and towns before ending up back in Mataram again.

The second weekend excursion was to the neighbouring island of Sumbawa by bus and ferry and the third weekend to Surabaya to visit a friend teaching at an international school. Competition between the airlines had return fares from Lombok to Surabaya down to only $45.

For accommodation, Pak Sudirman had recommended the 2-year-old Hotel Airlangga in Mataram. This very clean and comfortable hotel was within walking distance of the university -with TV, air-conditioning, Indonesian style bathroom and breakfast -all for only $15 daily. Nearby are shops, Internet cafes (at Rp 3500 per hour one-fifth the rate at Sengigggi), ATMs, warungs, food carts, supermarkets etc.

Surrounding the Hotel Airlangga can be found Hindu/Balinese/Islamic kampungs or residential areas. The different aspects of these neighbouring urban kampungs made for interesting early morning and late afternoon walks. Walking also allowed the opportunity for practising language with local people and trying to read the many signs in the shops and by the roadside helped improve my language understanding. I found Lombok transport to be very economical and easy to negotiate. Finding the way around Lombok is easy compared to Bali. Many roads are laid out in an east-west or north-south direction. The relatively flat topography of settled areas and the mountains in the background make it easy to orientate oneself, and if lost, just ask (and practise your Indonesian). Lombok traffic generally travels at 50km per hour, and even on the open road usually less than 70 -80 km per hour.

I was fortunate to be invited to my teachers' homes, and experienced Muslim hospitality, food and customs. My time at the Pusat Bahasa was the most rewarding and interesting I've had in Indonesia.

Teachers interested in studying in Lombok should contact the head of the Pusat Bahasa at the University of Mataram, Dr Priyono at Two and four week courses begin at the commencement of every month. If you happen to be the only participant (as I was)that's no problem, you'll learn more.

Bert Berghuis,
Teven-Tintenbar Public School


Go to USC - CDU Lombok Program 2005