An Anecdote

Between being the only Westerner in the area—a tall, pale, blonde one at that—and the language barrier, which I’m slowly chipping away at (I swear), several humorous scenarios have occurred here in Indo, usually at my expense, and never without my appreciation. Well, maybe I appreciate some of them only in retrospect, which is good enough, as far as positivity is concerned. 

My first day teaching. Despite asking my co-teacher Awal that I only observe class the first week, to get a hang of things, and his agreeing to such, I immediately find myself at the whiteboard leading the lesson. Simple past tense. Easy enough, even with the lack of planning and momentary lapse in remembering what exactly “simple past tense” is. Similar to how people sometimes forget, only for a moment, if first cousins are “actual, full-blown” cousins and not one of the “other types of cousins.” No, just regular cousins. Got it. 

I’m at the board and writing out a few examples of phrases commonly used to indicate the past (yesterday, last night, etc.). But as I’m doing this I realize I haven’t labeled what exactly I’m listing! Good god! The children will be lost without a proper heading. I immediately title this section of the white board: “Examples.” Looking at their (perpetually) confused faces, I clear the air: “Ex-am-ples.” Still confusion. I have the genius idea to translate this word, which I am pretty confident I know in Bahasa: “contoh.” Except I make a pronunciation mistake. In Bahasa, “c” is always pronounced like “ch” in English. I forget this. So I say it like “kontoh,” which sounds very similar to “kontol,” which means “penis” in Bahasa. Just a teacher pointing at the board and shouting penis at his students…on his first day. The kids were thoroughly amused, as was Awal, and I proceeded to spend the rest of class assuring everyone that “went” is indeed the simple past tense of “go.” 

More to come later. Possibly about the lack of indirect lighting in this country, which, if you know me, just really gets my goat. 



3 thoughts on “An Anecdote

  1. Hey Garb, I’m laughing aloud in the teacher’s office while reading about your first day teaching. I hope there is less confusion in your classes now that we are… 2?… almost 3? months in. Keep the funny stories coming! ~Kelly, Pangkal Pinang


    1. Hey Kelly! Yes, definitely less confusion. Every now and then I try to make a joke in English that falls flat (it must be confusion, right?!). I’ll stick with the physical comedy and elementary Bahasa jokes. Heading to class now! Passive voice. hope the island living is treating you well.


      1. Nice! I taught some of my classes the banana song awhile back and have had the pleasure of hearing certain students scream “Miss! Miss! Banana!” accompanied by a suggestive hip wiggle whenever they see me outside of class. Gotta love the students here…

        Liked by 1 person

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