WE CONTINUE THE TALE OF THE FIVE ADVENTURESOME EXPATS IN JAKARTA
Once again, the dramatis personæ:
- Droll Paul, very tall and very droll, a crooked English entrepreneur on the run from the authorities in Perth. A very leisurely Australian run actually, having to do with an awkward misunderstanding, one which could conceivably be interpreted as “fraud” were it unfortunate enough to be brought up in a court of law. Snooty, elegant and condescending, as well. Has a long bule nose and a management firm striving to impart mysterious advanced western corporate techniques to unsuspecting Indonesian start-ups [aka ‘marks’]. Looks down that long nose on the whole wide world. Basically a useless fuckwit selling useless shit. A ‘character’ (these are common in the East – particularly in Seminyak, where they are always trying to one-up each other). The others tolerate Paul, in spite of his manner – or rather, his lack of them). Why? Only God knows. Maybe just for fun.
- Alan. Fresh, sweet, smart, fun Alan. He survived an insane Chinese-Indonesian gambling addict who attempted to have him killed for insurance money and a grinding ESL-teaching job at Bank Qabur. After that trial by fire he’ll do fine, rolling with the punches.
- Lulu is knocking them back. She is what is known in the trade as a ‘serious drinker’. However, she is a solid citizen who pays her own way, tips the waitress fatly is entertaining and an all-around rewarding customer who knows how to hold her grog. She’s been married and divorced in Kuwait and married and divorced in Kazakhstan and married and divorced in California to a serial line of [immensely wealthy] dummies, lambs she has shorn neatly in divorce court. Is she on the lookout for a new hubby in blissfully unaware Indonesia? Not likely, as by now with the alimony she’s scraped off the hides of her various exes she could buy and sell just about all of the candidates. Watch her when she folds her folding money and stashes it in her purse: it’s frightening. So what’s she doing here? Oh she loves Indonesia. And it loves her (duit).
- Brett is bad and he knows it. He grew up in a bad family living in a bad part of town. He likes Indonesia because folks here just assume a grumpy whitey is a bule gila and tolerate his moods. He actually tries to put a hold on ‘the Bad’ because otherwise sooner or later he’d be grabbed by the collar and given the bum’s rush out of Indonesia toot sweet. But he’s bad. Nobody likes him. Secretly, he envies everybody else, because they’re happy and he’s not. But don’t expect him to show it. Brett is currently >ahem< ‘out of work’ (but everybody knows he’s a notorious Remittanceman) (‘stay-away-for-pay’).
- Hiroshi. First import-export… then ‘event organizing’… then ‘management consulting’ for shady Japanese companies… no one was quite sure what purpose the smooth, handsome Japanese man, 40 and looking 14, served in life. Hiroshi was always expensively-dressed, drove a luxury European car, and was a polite and careful listener. He met personal questions with a beaming smile, and not much else.
Grub & grog are promptly ordered from the rich Ya Udah Bistro menu.
TENSIONS & INTENTIONS:
OF CROSS-CULTURAL ROMANCE
PART TWO OF FOUR
Alan: ‘If you’ve never attended a language class you might not appreciate it but they tend to be pretty intensive psychodrama sessions.’
Paul (interested): ‘Well I’ve never done an ESL class, no. But how are they like “psychodramas”, Alan?’
Alan: ‘You’re in close quarters for hours at a time, attempting to instil new behaviour – in this case a new language – into adult learners. Not an easy chore and you often end up drenched in sweat, like you’ve been doing hard physical labor instead of teaching.
‘There also tend to be a higher number of romances and marriages than you’d expect: teacher and teacher, teacher and student, teacher and administrator’.
‘No “teacher and student’s parent”?’ Brett laughed.
Alan nodded. ‘Oh that too. Language learning somehow seems to arouse the erotic impulses in people. In this case it was our dry, dopey colleague Hank, Ph.D. in Russian Literature.
‘Hank had fallen, fallen hard and unexpectedly, for a meek little girl named Ayu, and from all signs she was hot on him too.
‘Wally the Walrus, our in-house “barracks lawyer”, had advised Hank “Go for it!” but everybody knew that Wally’s advice was so disastrous that you should do precisely the opposite of what he urged, so Hank hung back. He had also heard of the frightening case of Norbert.’
Everybody looked up. A good horror story coming up.
‘Norbert was a real professional, an experienced ESL teacher on his way to a promotion to Director of Studies. He was always eager to sharpen his teaching techniques, and just happened to have a desk in the Teachers’ Lounge next to Jamilah, who also wore a jilbab to work, faithfully, day in, day out.
‘They shared a “Level 4” class, where an Indonesian teacher does some hours, interlaced with instruction from a native squeaker – since the students believe they are not getting their money’s worth unless a paleface is performing for them.
‘So Norbert thoughtlessly invited Jamilah to a lunch meeting in the School Canteen one day, to talk over texts they had planned to share in the classroom.’
‘Uh-oh’ said Paul, anticipating the worst.
‘As they walked together from the Teachers’ Lounge toward the Canteen, carrying along their texts, all eyes were on them. You know how Indonesians love to gossip, especially about romance. “Oh look – Norbert’s got a new girlfriend!” they giggled to one another, with absolutely no evidence of this whatsoever.
‘Norbert and Jamilah had lunch, talked over the new text material, and strolled back to the Teachers’ Lounge, again together. More googly-eyes from students and staff.
‘Whispers among the staff. “Oh look – Jamilah has a new boyfriend. She is a lover of the handsome bule teacher!”
‘Next day, BINGO! Norbert was sitting at his desk when these two husky guys come barging into the Teachers’ Lounge, ahead of a Receptionist snapping at them that this was a private area.
‘Norbert suddenly felt the back of his shirt being grabbed. He was turned around in his chair.
‘Two angry faces. “What is you intention? What you want my sister? You marry her.”
‘The other guy made to slap Norbert, who unknown to all had advanced training in martial arts. Norbert instinctively grabbed his arm and twisted it. CRACK.
‘The rest of the staff in the Teachers’ Lounge were in shock. Stunned, they did not know what was happening.
“You play with my sister. You are not serious man. You watch out – we write a letter to police and Indonesian Immigration to you.”
‘Finally, everything became clear when Jamilah came rushing into the Teachers’ Lounge, screaming “Stop it! Stop now!”
‘The two brothers ignored her. “We beat you up with our gang. I know you living, your house. You don’t play my sister.”
‘The School security guards, in their fine uniforms, loitered like worried chickens in the background. They were not about to get involved in anything involving confrontation. Besides, this white man must have done something bad to merit this ugly scene.
‘Now Norbert’s ire was aroused. “You’re accusing me of what?” Boom, he hooks one guy’s legs and sends him to the floor. A sharp kick in the ribs and that brother is out of commission, doubled up, groaning.
‘The other brother is meanwhile being screamed at by his teacher sister, abandoning her usual quiet manner, and shouting back at her. Norbert stands, patient, waiting.
‘”Why don’t the two of you take this family drama outside, Jamilah?” he tells the angry woman, ignoring the brother, not so sure of himself now that he sees his sibling squirming on the floor.
‘The so-called “Security Guards” come snivelling up, with weak smiles, urging all concerned to leave the Teachers’ Lounge.
‘A day later, and all are back at work. The Teachers’ Lounge is quiet as usual. Jamilah is at her desk when Norbert walks in.
‘She ignores him.
‘He says, loudly, “Miss Jamilah, here’s what it is. We have to work together and our desks are side-by-side in this room. But from now on I shall not look at you, I am not going to talk to you, I will ignore your existence. I have already asked the Director of Studies to pair me up with a different Indonesian teacher.”
‘She looks at her papers, busily, refusing to deal with the embarrassing scene the previous day.
‘“Now this is the last thing I shall ever say to you.”
‘And it was.
‘Hank was at school that day, saw the sensational confrontation, and heard the whole story. He thought to himself “That is the last thing I want to happen to me, especially with some girl who thinks she has a crush on me.”
‘Now wait a minute here,’ Lulu butted in. ‘What I want to know is whether that was a set-up? Was Jamilah in on the deal?’
‘Trying to hook a husband. Classical Javanese style.’
Alan smiled, surprised. ‘You have a devious mind, sister. I never even considered that possibility. But from the way she was acting with her brothers…well who knows…’
‘Let me get back to Hank and his stirred-up romantic urges.
‘Hank had a crush on Ayu and vice versa. So what was he to do? Hank was nearly forty – now was the time to start thinking about marriage, he reluctantly admitted to himself. And why not get going with a cute girl like Ayu? She was smart as well – top of the class.
‘But she just would not stop staring at him, that way.’
Lulu chimed in. ‘So somebody told him to go talk to the girl’s father.’
Alan looked amazed. ‘How did you figure that out?’
‘By the numbers. That’s the only way it works in Indonesia. Ignore the girl – go straight to the family if you are serious.’
Alan: ‘Hank dreaded the confrontation with Ayu’s family. He was no drama – well I won’t say “drama queen” but you get the idea.
‘There was no other way to do it. Even before involving the girl: go talk to the father.’
Waitress barges in with plates and platters. Time to chow down. The story can wait.
TO BE CONTINUED