Shit I Learned In Indonesia

OK, so for any of you who know me personally, you would know that last time I was travelling I used to put a weekly post up on my Facebook called ‘Shit I Learned This Week’. It was a combination of funny and serious facts that I learned along the way that I wanted to share with people. As ordinary life and the monotony of working and then going to the gym set back in, I got lazy and let it slide as it became harder to come up with creative things I had learned. However, back by popular demand on my Facebook page Thomas Takes On… (chuck us a ‘like’ to keep in the loop) is “Shit I Learned This Week” and as a part of this continuing tradition, I shall reinstate it with a special post about “Shit I Learned In Indonesia”.

Shit I Learned In Indonesia
Useful Indonesian Words
  • Doso (doh-zoh) – “high five” useful for saying hi to or scaring small children. Some will laugh and slap your hand, other will scream and run yelling “monster, monster!” in the other direction.
  • Kontol besar (con-tol be-sar) – “big penis”. Men down the street will occasionally tell you that they have one of these for you. You shouldn’t believe them. They don’t really.
  • Capek (cha-pey) – “tired”. Even when you use this word it still won’t prevent police officers waking you up on the train just so they can say hello to you because they want to practice their English. And here I thought I was getting woken up because I am doing something wrong…..
  • Bule (boo-lay) – “white person/foreigner”. The word most commonly shouted when both adults and children alike see you and start pointing at you as if you are a crazy anomaly in society. It will usually be accompanied with the word “foto”.
  • Foto (foh-toh) – “photo”. Avoid this word at all costs. It will mean that you will spend an hour standing on the side of the road while locals take pictures with you and of you like you are some kind of celebrity. Then if you say no, they will still follow you and take pictures of you while you are not looking. Akin to Kim Kardashian, you are famous for doing absolutely nothing.
borobudur 018
My blonde friend getting swarmed by a kazillion Indonesian people and their phones saying ‘foto? foto?’

  • Ayo (aye-yoh) – “lets go!” Useful for getting a boot up peoples butts and to get moving.
  • Tidak (tee-dah) – “no”. Despite being a word in the Indonesian language, this word seems not only to be ignored, but magically most of the time translated into the word “yes”.
  • Kamu cantik (cam-oo chan-tee) – “you’re gorgeous/beautiful”. Frequently used by local men when you walk past them down the street or are sitting on the back seat of buses as their opening line to chat you up. Usually it is followed up by the question “you marry?” to which the appropriate answer is always “yes”.
  • Mas (maas) – “bro”. The men here will usually say ‘hallo mas!’ or ‘terima kasih mas’. I need to remember that while ‘mas’ in spanish means ‘more’, that I am saying ‘thanks bro’ in Indonesia instead of ‘thank you very much’. Especially when I am talking to a woman and she looks at me confused as I just called her ‘bro’.
  • Coca Cola Batik (koh-kah koh-lah bah-tik) – “Fake art work from Yogyakarta”. The local style of art, ‘batik’, involves covering material with a wax and then dying the bits left over. If it is real they say you can wash and iron it to keep it good. Sometimes locals will lie to you and sell you the fake stuff that the dye runs from when you wash it. I am not sure what Coca Cola has to do with this….
My real batik art, not the Coca Cola crap 🙂

Culture and People
  • If you ask how far or how long something is, do not expect an accurate answer. Concepts of time and distance are pretty much non-existent in Indonesia.
  • Everybody smiles. They can be happy, mad, angry, sad… any array on the emotional spectrum and it will always be delivered with a smile. As such, when angry the best way to deal with things is to smile and be polite. Passive aggression will get you everywhere.
  • On top of smiles is the laughing. People are always laughing in Indonesia and the laughter is often infectious. Sometimes a local will be so amused by something that you do that it almost difficult to not laugh back at them as they are so funny when they are being funny,
borobudur 001
This guy laughed at us and called my friend a ‘bludger’ despite not knowing what it meant and kept laughing for half an hour while we waited for the bus to Borobudur

  • Indonesians do not walk anywhere if they can help it. They will always take their motorbike. Even if it is 50m down the road, the will still go on “moto”.
  • Fat is a compliment. “Hey girl, you fat!” = hey, you have money and eat lots and are super healthy. I wish it was like this in Australia….
  • Say one thing. Mean another. Do another entirely. This is how we wind up having our passport in immigration for 16 days and not being notified of meetings. Then they tell you they have transport to immigration. Then they don’t. Then they do but you need your own helmet. Then they do again. And then they drive you to immigration and leave you on the side of the road there in the middle of nowhere because apparently transport to immigration does not mean transport home. This is also how you wind up homeless on New Years Eve as a ‘booking’ apparently can be given away if somebody with money comes in first and you aren’t there. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Always have your A game problem solving skills cap on or you will wind up in a pool of your own tears. Oh and laugh. Because what more can you do?
Passed out on the hostel floor on a pile of my junk over new years trying to have an afternoon nap and failing dismally

  • Indonesians have to be the friendliest people ever. I am trying to eat my bowl of bakso on the side of the road and a family invite me into their home to sit at their table to eat it and play with their kids… two hours later I am making my way out the door.
Politics and Religion
  • You will get woken up everyday to the sound of random warblings of Islamic prayer broadcast over giant speakers to the entire community. Earplugs required.
  • In Bali, one needs to constantly watch where they walk because not only will the gods be angry if you step on one of the offerings they lay out, but you will also wind up with massive soy sauce explosions up your leg.
South Bali 012
Some Hindu offerings… no soy sauce this time, just some tasty biscuits and flowers.

  • Soekarno was the first President of Indonesia and was responsible for their independence as a country in 1945.
  • Indonesians will approach you and start listing religions and ask you which one you are. “I have no religion” is never met with a good response, usually anger or confusion. I later learned that according to the “Pancasila” (translated in Javanese to mean “five principles”), which was the document used to found the country of Indonesia and unite all of the islands, the number one legal requirement on this list of all Indonesians is “belief in the one and only God”. What this means…. 1. It is illegal to not have a religion in Indonesia. 2. You are only allowed to follow a religion that is monotheistic. The Balinese made a few adaptations to allow Shiva to be their almighty God allowing Hinduism to be a part of the list of only 6 religions allowed in Indonesia including Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism or Protestantism. No allowances were made for other religions such as Judaism, Sikhism or any of the spiritual beliefs of the smaller tribes from the more secluded islands that form Indonesia. Sounds scarily like discrimination to me……
Other Indonesian Learnings
  • “Hallo Mister!” is a common greeting from all people here. Their addresses to each other are unisex, so I always get ‘mister’. I exhaust myself trying to explain that I am a ‘miss’ because I am a woman. The last English lesson I gave was to a group of 7 kids of 8-10 years old cutting school and smoking cigarettes on top of the hill overlooking the Telarga Warna. They followed me down the hill screaming at me “Miss! Miss!” Well at least they learned something….
  • Bed bugs. After getting them twice in Java I am now a total expert in anything bed bug related. The Indonesian word for bed bug is ‘kutu busuk‘ and I am ‘alergi‘ or allergic to them. I know about hunting them, their life cycle, how to get rid of them and even that if you isolate and tape the bed they will climb the walls and drop on you from the ceiling to get at you and your tasty blood. Ugh, I am creeped out thinking about it and haven’t slept in a month.
  • Fried chicken here rivals that of Colonel Sanders (KFC) an is way cheaper… between these and cheap Magnum Gold’s I will wind up the size of a house and require rehab after Indonesia to deal with my withdrawals.
Yet another evening on the Magnum Golds… had to find another shop because we cleared the first one out.

  • I am ‘seexxxaaayyyy’ according to a 60 yo local woman on the bus to Wonosobo and this is apparently hilarious to everyone else on the bus.

And I think that shall be it! For the weekly versions (much shorter I promise) tune in to Facebook and I shall be back next week with more challenge and adventure (Si bolang!) Until then 🙂

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