Expedition Outfitting in Pidgin Indonesian*

25 Sep

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The scene? In and around various shopping establishments in Kota Ternate, the de facto capital of Indonesia’s Spice Islands, and home to more English language students per head of population than anywhere in the world.

An increasingly harassed single mother is wrangling a small boy in khaki with a motorbike helmet over one arm and the beginnings of an emo haircut.

Yes. I know you want more time in the arcade but we need to get a mosquito net and a blanket today.
I can’t leave you here because I don’t know how long it’s going to take.
Because the jungle is full of mosquitoes and we will be eaten alive and quite possibly get malaria.
No. It’s not instantly fatal. But we don’t want to get it.
The vast majority of people recover with treatment.
It’s not just Ternate. They don’t sell Malarone in Indonesia, full stop. I tried in Makassar and Manado as well.
Because I checked.
At the pharmacy.

Do you have an anti-mosquito moeskuidonet?
Thank you!
No. Not spray. A moeskuidonet.

Where can I buy an anti-mosquito moeskuidonet?
His helmet? Sure. Here.
I go first floor already. They say second floor.
OK. I go look.

I know we’re going to be walking up and down the stairs and it is very trying.
I agree. They are telling us what they think we want to hear.
Where’s the bloody down escalator again?

Where can I buy an anti-mosquito moeskuidonet?
Yes! A mosquidonet!
Second floor? But I go already.
OK. Second floor.

The helmet? No, we have no motorbike.
We take motorbike taxi. Two people on one bike. Motorbike taxi only has one helmet for one person. So my son has a helmet.

London, England.
He is nine.
Yes, only one.
Thank you! Goodbye.

Where can I buy an anti-mosquito moeskuidonet?
Ah. The helmet. Here it is.
Yes! A mosquito net!
No mosquito nets in this mall?
Where does have them?
We went already to Ternate Mall. They don’t have. Where can I buy?
OK. Thank you.

They don’t know.
Yes. I know.
You got a better idea?
Push comes to shove we can maybe rent one from Ilham. But he did say we needed our own.
If we can’t find one I’ll call him.

We are from London, England.
He is nine.
Yes, your English is very good.
No. You are not bothering me.
Thank you.

Excuse me. Where can I buy an anti-mosquito mosquito net?
Yes! A mosquito net.
Not here. Yes. Where does have anti-mosquito mosquito nets?
Gloria Minimart?! Where’s that?
Motorbike taxi! We take motorbike taxi!

I want to go to Gloria Minimart.
From England.
Yes! David Beckham.

I don’t know which hair wax is best for spikes. I reckon that one.
Well, I’m pretty sure it means strength, too. In fact, I’m sure it means power. I looked it up at the sultan’s palace.
Here. Take the dictionary. Work it out for yourself.

Do you have an anti-mosquito mosquito net?
No. Not anti-mosquito spray. Anti-mosquito mosquito net.
Ah. Where can I buy?

Where were you when I called?
Well, I didn’t hear you either.
Come on.
We will come back and buy your hair wax.
Because this lady has left her job to show us the way to a shop that sells mosquito nets and we need to go with her NOW.
Sorry I shouted.
Yep. I’m in a shitty mood too.

Oh. It’s shut. What time open morning?
He has a key?!
I would like to buy an anti-mosquito mosquito net.

I’m sure he’s opening up the shop.
We’re not just standing in the street for nothing. I think it’s his shop.
Well, I don’t know. But he had a key.
I can hear rattling. There’s definitely something happening.
We’ll be back there before it shuts to get your hair wax, anyway. It’s open till eleven.
Well, the same people who told us it sold mosquito nets.

Yes, of course.
Please smile for the nice man’s photo.
Yes, sure. No problem. The more the merrier!

London, England!
Yes, yes. Same-same David Beckham.

Darling. Don’t get cross with him.
He just didn’t understand that Manchester is not in London.
Just explain again, slowly, that they’re two different cities.

Mosquito net! Good for two people?
And an, erm, erm – I have a dictionary – a thing that you put over yourself. For two people.
Can I look?
Good for two people?
Thank you!

No. I wouldn’t have believed it could be that difficult either. Particularly given Halmahera is the mosquito capital of the universe.
Maybe they all use coils or something?

No. Not now. We don’t want a motorbike taxi now.
We go to ATM. And pharmacy.
We walk.
Four days. Tomorrow we go to Eastern Halmahera to see Togutil people.
Yes! Many mosquitoes!

Oh my god! I think we will walk right past that. The boy’s OK. He’s standing up. He’s just shocked.
Did he? I thought the motorbike hit him.
I agree he’s a nasty man.
Mind the beggar, darling. I think he’s a bit upset by the accident and the drama. Let’s walk this way. Fast.
Well. Yes. But it’s not actually an uncommon parental response to bollock your child when they’ve hurt themselves.
Even though it wasn’t his fault he fell off the back of the bike.

We are English. From London, England.
And where are you from?
He’s nine.
Me? Only a little Indonesian.
Thank you.

We can go for doughnuts. I just want to get to the pharmacy for antihistamines.
The one under the hotel doesn’t have them.
Because I asked. They said there was another one this way.***

*Best read in the style of Joyce Grenfell’s nursery sketches.
**Parental note: Unless you want to spend ten dollars on a can of lager in a 4* hotel or a brothel, Kota Ternate is dry.
***There was another one that way. It didn’t have any antihistamines.

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6 Responses to “Expedition Outfitting in Pidgin Indonesian*”

  1. Snap September 26, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    T, that was exhausting. I know you are flying under the radar at the moment, hopefully mozzie free!

    BTW…where are you from again and do you need a taxi?

    • MummyT October 3, 2010 at 1:21 am #

      saya dari london.
      ya. sama sama dafeed bekum!
      dan victeeya bekum!
      dan princess deeyahna!

      i tell you, you know you’re in the real back of beyond when people haven’t heard of david beckham, angelina jolie or princess diana. depressing, in its way.

  2. marketingtomilk October 1, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    Brilliant post. Made me laugh out loud. Hearing only your side of the conversation was ingenious.


    • MummyT October 3, 2010 at 1:23 am #

      ah! i’m glad someone appreciated it. not, honestly, a high point of my linguistic travails here… z angling for a return to the mall. we are still, currently, on the wrong island. in a christian town. pros: can buy beer. cons: almost everything shut on sunday. including dispensary of chocolate and lemon fanta…

  3. njdurbin October 3, 2010 at 6:56 am #

    I can so picture it, I have a nine year old boy too. Fantastic.

    Did you find a net? Where we were the mosquitos were practically invisible (no-see-ums)and the holes in the net we got were too big to keep the bastards out. At least malaria wasn’t really an issue for us, but insanity could have set in if the problem wasn’t resolved.

    • MummyT October 3, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

      We did! It is a tasteful floral shade, and already going to holes.

      Which means I will have to stitch it up in black thread in the local vein…

      The mosquitoes were very visible. The little midges, less so.

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