Kiah - experiences in Lombok Jan - Feb 2011

My name Kiah (pronounced kye- yah) caused plenty of confusion for taxi offices. They would not believe that was my name. In Indonesian the word ‘kaya’ (same pronunciation as my name) means ‘rich’ so whenever I rang for a taxi, the person on the other end would ask me for my name, and when I replied ‘Kiah,’ they would repeat the question, thinking I didn’t understand. I would answer ‘Kiah’ again and then they would ask me for my name again, but this time in English. So I would say clearly in Indonesian ‘My name is Kiah.’ They would eventually accept that I wasn’t joking, and send the taxi. Out of the forty or so taxis I called while in Indonesia, only 2 people believed me when I told them my name was Kiah for the first time! (Need a pseudonym for next time!)

You have to reject the compliment
My mother always told me off for refusing compliments. If someone said they liked my blouse, I would say oh it's really old, or cheap, or 'not even mine, I borrowed it'. Mum would always get frustrated and say "Kiah, stop it. It won't kill you to say thank you. That's all you need to say." So I learned to always say thank you for compliments. But then in Indonesia, if people said "You are good at Indonesian" or "You are beautiful", I would respond with terima kasih (thank you). Then my language teacher Bu Ita happened to tell us in class one day that if someone compliments you, the done thing is to reject the compliment, pretend it is false so as not to appear arrogant. I thought, "Oh God, I'm so confused." No-one seemed offended when I thanked them? But that's cultural differences for you. So I ended up just laughing at compliments. Pak Phil reckons if they say I am beautiful, I should say "yes, in the eyes of buffalo."

One weekend, my partner and I went to Gili Air with the Resident Director and her husband for a day trip. The island was like a postcard-turquoise water, clean white sand, green trees everywhere…we hired snorkeling masks for about $3 and went swimming in front of the beach bar we were sitting at. You only had to swim a little way out before you could see about 100 different types of brightly coloured tropical fish. It was amazing! I had never seen so many different fish all in the same place before, and they didn’t seem to mind us swimming amongst them (well, there was that one big pink and turquoise fish who looked as if he was debating whether or not to try and eat me…but apart from him, they all seemed happy enough.) A bit further out and the sea floor dropped several feet, so you could swim over massive coral and anenome structures. One coral I saw was round and flat, and about 8 feet across, like a massive underwater table! To think that such a beautiful tropical island is still largely unknown to a lot of people. There are two other islands nearby, Gili Trawangan and Gili Menos, though Trawangan is more for partying and Menos has a tiny population, so not a lot of facilities, but for me, Gili Air is the island that is ‘just right.’

We had two different teachers in Level 6 at Universitas Mataram and they both spoke to us in Indonesian as much as they could. The class was really relaxed and as a result, the students got to know each other and everyone got along really well. One guy was always making jokes and making the rest of us laugh. One day while we were discussing the ups and downs of being an expat in Indonesia, as a diplomat, business man or missionary, he told the teacher that an English word she had used normally referred to a sexual position. "You can say he is a missionary, but you can't say he works in a missionary position." Everybody cracked up laughing and one of the guys then had to explain to the teacher-in Indonesian-what we were talking about. So while unexpected, our teacher learnt something new!
The materials were the same as used in classes at the University of the Sunshine Coast but here they had us play language games and do role-plays within the various topics covered. We also went on an excursion to a coral conservation and interviewed the workers about their business.

Dance class
We had two one-hour dance classes a week, but as I joined late, I only had 2 classes before I had to perform in public with one other Aussie girl. Our third member had 'Bali belly,' so it was down to two of us. We dressed up in tight tight traditional Sasak costumes for Australia day -- in February! The other girl Hayley is half-Filipina so she looked perfect in the costume, whereas I looked very out of place. I could barely breathe or move my feet in the costume as it was so tight and for the dance, we had to crouch on the floor on our knees and then stand again without using our hands. My kain was too long and I was dreading that I would tread on it and trip or it would fall down. Thank heavens our dance teacher Mbak Dayu accompanied us and drew most of the audience’s attention!
I had three more dance classes after and seemed to get worse at the balance business. But I really enjoyed it and wished I could have done more dance. I did Irish, jazz ballet, traditional ballet and contemporary when I was younger, and recently belly dance, so I would have loved to have learnt more about traditional Indonesian dance. A mixed group of boys and girls also did a Minang dance with lots of "body percussion". We rehearsed so much for the performance, lots of us had bruises on our shoulders and feet from practicing!

We stayed in a cheap hotel in Cakranegara but we had to move because the mosquitoes were unbelievably persistent and the windows did not have full screens. Despite applying mosquito repellent my partner (who did Level 2 Indonesian) would wake up every day with six new mozzie bites and as we did not want to get dengue fever, we spent a day visiting 3 or 4 different hotels and asking to see their rooms, trying to find somewhere to move to. The hotel we moved into was expensive, but safe from mozzies, so we spent our time there enjoying the aircon as much as possible! As we had a TV in our room, we would watch Indonesian TV shows everyday, and I found myself understanding more and more of what was being said, which was a great confidence booster.

My Impression 
I am so glad I went on the Lombok program. When I arrived there I felt that all I could get out of my mouth was basic greetings and requests. Three weeks in Lombok tuned up my fluency and my confidence. Several days before we had to return to Bali, I found myself ringing several hotels in Bali and asking them if they had a room available for two people for three days, all in Indonesian! On the way out at Bali International airport, I talked with the staff at the check-in counter, as they were surprised I could speak Indonesian, and I also had a great conversation with an immigration official who happened also to be a graduate of Universitas Mataram!

I had just enough to pay the international airport departure tax and came back flat broke and would not have missed it for the world. If I am able to go again on the Lombok program, the only thing I would change would be that I would do the full 6 week program, rather than just the 3 weeks (maklum soal duit!).

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