Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Life in Jakarta: Learning the local language Pt II

A few more bits that I remember...

"Lucu banget!!!!"
There I am, the new momma, proudly pushing her baby boy around in the stroller. If I pass by women, they tend to crane their necks to look at my son, smile and comment in a friendly tone. I found that Indonesians do this more often than Malaysians. No one bothered to look into Connor's stroller when we brought him home to KL. LOL
A oft-heard comment is "Luuuucu baaaaaaaaanget!" I knew what banget meant, it means "very". We use the word sangat back home. But lucu to me meant "funny" as in "funny haha". The first few times I heard that comment, I would look down at my little boy. Is he funny looking? Erm, no wor... I think he's quite cute. But why do so many Indonesians keep telling me my boy is "very funny looking" and look very happy while they do so? It's so sad for a mum to be told her precious baby is funny looking. Maybe they don't like mixed kids? I didn't think so... My driver was telling me children of mixed parentage are called "Indo" and he likes them because they're cute.
It took a sinetron (Local soap opera... unbelieveable stuff to watch! LOL) to teach me what lucu meant. In this context, it meant "cute, adorable". Yay! Now when people tell me Connor is lucu, I don't frown anymore.

"Cowok atau cewek?"
After I'd mastered the lucu bit, I faced another question. Sometimes people would ask me, "Putra atau putri?" ("Son or daughter?") and I would reply, "Putra..." We call it anak lelaki/perempuan ... the term putra is sort of literary and we don't use it in everyday convie in Malaysia. I very much prefer the Indon term, it's so much prettier!
But sometimes, people would ask, "Cowok atau cewek?" and I didn't know what to reply at first! I knew they were asking if it was a boy/girl... it was that obvious but I er.. can't remember which is which. On the other hand, it could be some fun game that Jakartans play where you replace the vowels and then repeat the words back to each other. In which case, my answer would be, "Ciwik atau cawak!"

Telling time
In Malaysia, we tend to say "sembilan setengah" (lit nine and a half) to indicate half past nine. But in Indonesia, you would say "setengah sepuluh" i.e. half an hour to ten. Before I learnt this bit, there were a few instances with my driver where he would be waiting patiently a full hour for me to show up. I thought he was being efficient and punctual (hardly anyone is punctual in a city that's plagued by traffic jams) while he thought Madam was perpetually late! When I found out that I was saying things wrongly, I decided to say the time in English. That way we never get mixed up anymore and S doesn't have to waste an hour waiting for me.

This last bit is a sign I saw on the entrance of a mushollah (small mosque) here. Actually I'm not sure I should post this lest I offend my Muslim readers but I really saw this and I want to see if I've interpreted it correctly.
We were on our way to Kuningan to pick up my new passport and S was taking the back roads to avoid the jams on the main drive. We passed a mushollah and there it was. It was the most unusual sign I'd ever seen in my whole life. This is the entrance to a holy place, a place of prayer and to my astonishment, it said "ASSHOLEHAH". ???????????? I was so surprised I turned around to take a 2nd look and yep, that's what it said.

Okay... this is just my guess. Is a badly needed hypen/space missing? I'm guessing the sign should say "As Sholehah"? See... once the space is there, your brain doesn't read it as a naughty word anymore. I don't know if that is how they spell "solehah" here in Indonesia. I know the word only in the context of a wife (isteri) so I can't explain why it's on that sign. (Anyway, I have to admit I didn't read anything else on the sign since my eyes were glued to the main words!)

An isteri solehah is a dutiful and good wife. Lest people mistake this to mean just a woman who's chained to the kitchen and brings her hubby slippers when he comes home from work, it also means a wife who takes care of the family name, who supports her husband, who helps shoulder the burden of marriage... a wife who is a good life partner... as in "Behind every successful man..."
I wish I'd snapped a pic but we couldn't just stop. Maybe the Muslim Indonesians who read this blog can tell me what the sign meant? It's even more intriguing than Knalpot!


  1. omg the last one kills me! I have to go over and see this before you move!

  2. PB: But I can't remember exactly where it is... maybe I should ask S to take me down to the Malaysian Embassy again and hope I pass by the mushollah again.

  3. haha its so funny. I need more time to take a look at the word ASSHOLEHAH and suddenly burst laughing.
    Its Arabic word mean godliness *i guess*

  4. OMG this has happened to me too! We are expats living in Jakarta with our little one, and the google translation of Lucu being funny would always make me wonder what's "funny" about my baby! So thanks for the translation !

    Also would like to thank you for your list of baby shops in Jakarta....cuz my shopping has been limited to Kuningan (we live here) & we would've never ever ventured out to Suzannas or ITC Fatmawati if it weren't for your blog. We used to be pretty shocked with the (high) prices of everything in this city , which means we were even more shocked to see the (low) prices at ITC !


    1. Hi there, hope you're enjoying your stay in the Big Durian! Glad to see you're enjoying your shopping in ITC... I miss that place now that I'm back in KL!