Life is created through words, so it’s no wonder that a language course taught me more about living than vocabulary.
If you’re in Bali, I recommend taking at least a 3-hour Crash Course like this or, at the very least, taking 3 minutes to read what I discovered. Things I had previously felt annoyed by here in Indonesia now make so much sense…
1. There is no such thing as the past or future, only now.
Past and future verbs do not exist in Indonesian, only the present. I asked my teacher how we could refer to the past or future and she just smiled and laughed. I realized maybe that’s why Indonesians seem so happy; they’re actually living in the now. And they’ve been doing it before Eckart Tolle made it cool! (#tshirtidea)
2. Treat everyone like family.
The sweetest thing about the language that I found is how they refer to each other as Bapak (Father), Ibu (Mother), Mas (Older Brother), Mbak (Older Sister), even if there’s no blood relation. For example, instead of calling my amazing masseur by only his first name, Wayan, I say Pak Wayan (Father Wayan). My teacher said it would be odd and rude for an Indonesian to just call a person by their name (without this familial addition at the beginning). Luckily, according to her, Indonesians understand we foreigners don’t get this and are, therefore, not offended by us.
Note: This “big family” idea may also explain the hilarious encounters I’ve had. Most recently at the market, a shop-owner who was helping me try on dresses commented on how perky my breasts are without a bra. She then proceeded to lift up her shirt and show me the type of bra she needed to keep her girls high. I instantly loved her like an old friend and bought the dress. Okay maybe that was a selling tactic. Anyway moving on…
3. Be interested in other’s lives.
Following this theme that we are a big family, the Indonesians ask questions like:
“Where are you going?”
“What are you doing?”
“Where do you stay?”
“How old are you?”
“Do you have kids?”
These are their way of showing interest in your life. This was super helpful to me, as I found those questions rudely intrusive until I learned the reasoning. Now when my homestay host Kadek asks me “Where are you going?” I feel cared for.
Suffice it to say, the Indonesians have learned me good in many things.