Tag Archives: language

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. Continue reading

Slik Insults: Lost in Translation

1 Sep

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As a language, Bahasa Indonesia, the lingua franca of Indonesia’s many different peoples, is famously easy to learn.

It is not tonal, has sweet FA by way of grammar and syntax, a generally regular stress pattern and a word order and pronunciation not wildly dissimilar to English.

So, having bought a dictionary in Makassar, I figured I’d cope OK as we head east across this vast nation. At our cheap hotel in the little silk town of Sengkang, however, it became abundantly clear that not all dictionaries are created equal. Continue reading

From Hunter-Gatherers to Human Zoo

8 Aug View from a low-flying prop plane over Mulu National Park and the Mulu River. Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]Leaving Mulu National Park on a little propeller plane, with rivers unspieling below us, a scattered handful of logging tracks carving their way across the hilltops, and merciful expanses of untouched forest before the gridded tracts of oil palms, it’s easy to see how remote the interior of Borneo once was.

In the days when the Brooke dynasty ruled Sarawak — even during the heady couple of years when Sarawak had an airforce (two seaplanes, one of which broke soon after arrival) — the trip would have taken weeks, if not months.

And nomadic tribes like the Penan could live their life untouched, as they had for untold centuries. Continue reading

A Tryst Arranged

24 Feb

One quiet evening, Francois’ brother played Mendelssohn on the balcony of our Phnom Penh guesthouse, and he played it well.

Francois is a writer, two young children, separated. The brother is an artist and musician, living in Cambodia, getting by. The kids are skiing with their mother. He is in PP with a friend.

It is a little after midnight, the brother is long gone, and Francois and I are talking French on the roof terrace, as the staff sleep behind their screen.

His friend, he tells me, is déficient. He cannot read. He cannot write. He needs help to cross the road. Continue reading