Thursday, September 23, 2010

Maybe tomorrow

The same guy has been painting my small guest house, one room at a time, for three days now. He's coming back tomorrow ("besok") to finish the fourth and final room. I thought he was going to be finished in one day but everyday he leaves having only done a single room. One and done. And then another. His pace and his style--showing up mysteriously unannounced, working strictly without a dropcloth, walking all over my bed and pillows with bare dirty feet and leaving the footprints as souvenirs--are representative of a kind of approach to Getting Things Done here that I'm still, in the words of our pre-service training team, culturally adjusting to. OK, so things move at a very different pace. Perfect. I'm in no hurry to rush through my time in Indonesia. I'm game for soaking it all in. Let's luxuriate in the moment, shall we? But can we also please finish painting the walls? I'd like to hang a picture or two.
"When we he come back?"
"Maybe tomorrow."
"OK. Tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow. Yeah, yeah. "

"Yeah, yeah." I hear this a lot. It means many things. It means, yes. It also means, maybe. And more often than not it means, I don't understand anything you're saying right now.

My house is in the parking lot of my school. Every morning there are about 1,000 motorcycles parked out front, kids arriving as early as 6:20 a.m. as they throttle and idle their way into various spaces right outside my bedroom window. A woman who works for the school takes care of my house and several other campus outbuildings. She also makes tea all day for the 200 teachers who work here. She is a blur of activity, and she usually is standing in the kitchen of my in-no-way-private little home by about 6 a.m. I speak very little Indonesian and she speaks very little English. We talk to each other in mutually incomprehensible babble, and when we're done she usually says to me, "Yeah, yeah." When the water went out earlier this week I asked if there was a way to fix it. Was there a valve that we could turn back on? I pantomimed valve, turning my wrist back and forth, opening it and closing it. Could she show me the valve in case it happened again? "Yeah, yeah." I looked up the word for valve in my Indonesian dictionary. "Di mana klep?" I asked. Where is the valve? "Klep?" she said, looking very puzzled. "Bukan klep." There was no valve. The water tank had simply run dry and somebody needed to fill it up. Oh, OK. Problem solved. Then the water went out again the next morning.
"Sorry, mister."
"Will they fix it today?"
"Yeah, yeah."

I am right now shopping for a motor scooter to get around Magelang. It's a small town but my school is located on the southern fringe and the city's public transportation system is limited. If I want to be mobile at all--if I want to buy groceries or see a movie or visit the local pool--I'm going to need some wheels. Plus, come on. I'm in Indonesia. What's more fun than puttering along on the left side of the road, putting some pavement between me and work once in a while? So some my fellow teachers have been taking me to various showrooms, including a couple run by friends and relatives. The prices on offer seem a tad high and no one will take me to more than two showrooms in a given day.
"Can we see more bikes? There must be more, right?"
"More bikes? Today? Aren't you tired? Maybe tomorrow."
Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe next Monday. "Don't be in a hurry."

I got it. No rush! I am not rushing! Not at all! But will someone please tell me when this guy will finish painting my house?

"Yeah, yeah. Maybe tomorrow."

1 comment:

  1. Ooop. I can feel your pain. It's simultaneously charming and annoying. Had similar experiences in India while working there.