Fitting in by learning Bahasa Indonesia

When I first arrived in Jakarta, I experienced some difficulty when it came to communicating with the locals.

Me: Can steam ayam (chicken), please.

Part-time helper : Bisa (can). *smiles and nods head vigorously as if she understood*

I ended up having steamed fried chicken for dinner.

Me: Do you have disposable party plates here?

Store assistant: blank look.

Me: Paper know..can throw.. *hand gestures what a plate looks like*

Store assistant: Ahhh. Follow me.

I followed him and found myself in the section of disposable plates dish washing liquid.

Most times it’s really not that bad. Many Indonesians can speak English and in fact, they like practicing their English with expats here. However, I felt that picking up the language proper would help me to assimilate into the culture better. Being able to speak basic Bahasa Indonesia (BI) was also key in giving taxi drivers directions, asking for help, etc.

It was the small day things really, but they had a big impact on day-to-day living.

And so from August 2015 to December 2015, everyday from Monday to Friday, 2 hours each day (a grand total of 160 hours) – I learnt and studied the language in a group class setting. For those who are interested in picking up BI here in Jakarta, Universitas Atma Jaya has a pretty good structured and rigorous programme. The one I did was “Intensive BIPA 1” which cost about Rp 8.7 juta inclusive of registration and learning material fees.

Here are some pictures of my classmates and I in and out of class:

As the name “Intensive BIPA 1” suggests, yes it was VERY INTENSIVE. I had three exams in total and homework everyday. It was like back-to-primary-school-oh-yeah.  I remember pulling my hair out at times and complaining to Agent D why in the world had  I put myself through this.

But well it was worth the time and effort. These days, I find it much easier getting around, relaying the right directions, and making small talk with the locals.

AND a surprise in the mailbox came a few days ago:

Never expected myself to get an in BI – the language I was fumbling and stuttering in just a few months before.

All glory goes to God!