My bike?

The last two posts have been snorefests. So it’s time to pull out some good content.

I moved in with my pre service training host family on a Saturday. I had only had two days of language classes. My language skills were pretty much limited to telling someone my name, saying where I’m from, and saying where I live. I could also point to a couple of objects and identify them in Indonesian. Oh, and numbers. I could count to like a billion. But that wasn’t very useful.

Before being dropped off volunteers are told some basic cultural advice and given a sheet of paper with a picture of our host family. In Indonesian the word for father is bapak and the word for mother is ibu. So when I say bapak or ibu I mean my host father or my host mother.

I arrived at my host family’s house around eleven in the morning. The bus I was on could not turn down the street my host family lives on because there was a utility vehicle in the way and the road is barely wide enough for one vehicle. So my community liaison and training manager walk me to my house, facilitate all too brief introductions, and then head back to the bus with the other volunteers leaving me along with a family I cannot speak with.

Naturally, the first thing my bapak and I do is go on a tour of the house. I am shown what I believe to be my room, the kitchen, and the utility room. In the utility room there is a bike. My bapak stops and makes some gestures towards the bike—a pedaling motion with his hands. I don’t understand what he’s saying but I was told the Peace Corps has made sure every volunteer will have access to a bike at his or her house. In response to whatever it is my bapak was trying to convey I say, “sepeda saya?” (My bike?) Bapak does not respond in a way which makes me believe the bike he has just shown me is mine to use. Perhaps he was showing me his bike because he’s proud of it? I don’t know.

After the tour bapak and I are sitting on the front porch. Just hangin’ out. A couple minutes of awkward intercultural silence go by and he points to another bike just off the porch. Bapak once again says some things I do not understand. I realize this must be my bike. So once again I bust out the ol’ “sepeda saya?” And this time bapak responds in a way much easier for me to understand, but the answer to my question is still a resounding “no.” Conveniently, a few seconds later a lady walks up to the bike, gets on, and rides away. As she bikes off I say, “ahhh… sepeda DIA,” meaning “HER bike.” Bapak nods his head to agree. Turns out there is a shop right next to our house and the bike had nothing to do with my host family.

Having only been with my host family for less than an hour I succeeded in making my bapak believe I am some stupid American who thinks every bike he sees is his.

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