Today was a good day so we thought we had better write something to counteract the dreadful tone of the last post. So here’s a little something from Melody and from Matt. We hope you enjoy.
“Pray without kissing.”
This was a fourth grader’s reading of “pray without ceasing.” I love the ABEKA books. The ABEKA curriculum is a Christian curriculum, which is generally good, except for the archaic language and random references to tabernacles and Zephaniah thrown in. There’s nothing like teaching ESL kids English using example sentences like, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Which, locally pronounced, is more like “honor tie father and tie mother.”
“I am your friend.”
Sunday I went to church alone so Melody could rest (isterahat). Sunday is our day for grocery shopping for the week since that is the day that the school provides a car and driver to haul the apparently inordinate amounts of food we buy. The grocery store is in the basement of the Mega-Mall (home to only the coolest and newest shops, restaurants a now a Billiards Bar on the roof). I was looking for anything non-top-40 in one of the three music stores (all of which promised me they could order me any album I wanted, but when pressed revealed that they in fact could only order what they already had), when I saw an awkward toothed Indonesian stride proudly up to me. I turned to face him.
“Ekscuse me sir I hope I do not bother you.”
“Well, you haven’t yet.”
“I hope I do not bother you because I have a class and the teacher say that when we see foreigner we must go and conversation with him, so that is what I want and I hope I do not bother.”
At this point I’m remembering that last encounter Melody and I had like this that dragged on for an uncomfortable fifteen minutes culminating in a horribly awkward inquiry about our sense of safety in what the inquistor saw as a frightening place for bule’ such as ourselves.
“Oh, so you would like to practice your English? Well, alright we can do that, but just for a short time, I have to finish my shopping.”
“Oh, OK sir. What’s your name sir?”
“Where you come from, Mak?”
“I’m from America.”
After three months I’ve almost given up returning the question as the response is almost invariably “Manado,” even when they’ve lived elsewhere. I think they interpret it as where did you just come from.
“How long you here?”
“I’ve been here for three months.”
“What you want in Manado?”
“Today I’m here for groceries.”
“No, why you here? Why you live here.”
“I’m a Teacher.”
With light in his eyes “Where you teach?”
“I teach at Manado International School, on Kolongon.”
“What subject you teach?”
“English, of course.”
Smiles and laughs.
“Oh, I have a friend who also teaches English at M.I.S. He also from America…”
At this moment I knew what was happening. Dr. Randy told us a story once about meeting a man on a remote island who, trying to establish common ground with his new acquaintance insisted that he knew of another American, indeed, his good friend, who also lived and worked in Manado (where Dr. Randy was based). Dr. Randy assured him that he was the only American living and working in Manado at that time. Eventually the man produced the name card of his “friend.” It read “Randy Richards.” After they both read it, the man extended his hand with a broad smile to meet, for the first time, his friend, whose name card he had carried in his wallet for many years.
With a look on my face that indicated I’d gotten my own little inside joke (Brandon, you know the one) I offered my hand and said,
“I’m your friend.”
He looked shocked and embarrassed and then his embarrassment turned to indignance and I realized that I had in fact met this guy before. He was the same guy who had detained us for excruciating minutes on end in another store, another night.
“You not remember me?” He said without a touch of irony. “I’m Aiudi.”
“Aiudi, you didn’t remember me!”
“Why you not email me back?”
He had me there. When we had first met he wanted my phone number, and like so many young women hoping to stave off stalkers, I had offered my email as an acceptable second prize. But when I received his first transmission of text less decipherable than his speech I ignored it, busy, and assuming that this city of 400,000 would shield me from further encounters and email-buddy accountability. Alas, another curse of the ‘bule’ is that you have no anonymity. I always looked at becoming a pastor with trepidation because of the extra scrutiny their lives receive. I had no idea coming to Manado would magnify attention to my action, choice and purchase by a factor of SPF 36.
“Well, I’ve been very busy…”
“What your hand phone number?”
My saving grace for this question is that “I don’t have one,” yet.
If you think Aiudi’s tenacious demands for my personal contact information are out of line you and I are agreed but we are the only ones to whom this seems self-evident. This is part of my local fame as an American in Manado: my contact information ought to be publicly accessible. Though I have to say, after a couple of weeks of urban anonymity wandering the streets of Singapore amid tides of blank-faced audio-earplugged people, it was nice to return to Manado where, grown men feel compelled to stand up and yell “Hello Meester!” upon seeing me pass their neighborhood in a cab with the window down. I benevolently nod and smile feeling ridiculously royal.
“Aiudi, I have to be careful who I give my phone number to.”
“Why? Why you have to do that?
“Be careful? Because I work very hard at school all day teaching and when I come home I need to rest and prepare for class. If I give my number to everyone then the phone will always be ringing.”
“But email me again and I’ll try to write back this time. OK?”
“Now, I should probably go buy some food. See you later.”