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Scholarship at Yogyakarta

Updated: Sep 20, 2019


Eight days of six-hour intensive Indonesian lessons in Yogyakarta! When I applied for the VILTA scholarship, I must admit, I had little idea what I was letting myself in for. Right up until the point of departure this is what I knew… I was going to Yogyakarta, there was a language course with Realia, and the name of the accommodation. Oh, I knew the dates and flight schedule! This is the sort of serendipity that one experiences in being an Indonesian teacher, so, stressful as it was, I went with the flow. And it all worked out amazingly!

My accommodation, Peti Mas, was just off Jalan Malioboro, a quiet haven sheltered from busy Jalan Dagen outside the front entrance. Every morning my driver from Realia picked me up at this entrance; while waiting, I watched pedagang kaki limas’ trundle their carts along, becak drivers awaken and start calling for business, huge tourist buses manipulating the narrow street, sellers unpacking their wares and locals enjoying their nasi in the surrounding warungs . Pak Trondol, my driver, had a second job as a keyboard player, so we travelled the 30 or 40 plus minutes, depending on traffic, tentu saja, listening to keroncong and musik campursari.

The lessons at Realia were one on one for two hours at a time three times a day! I had different teachers on a rotation of sorts. The first day or so was spent in full on conversations while they ascertained my fluency (of lack thereof) and what I would like to gain from our time together. I was there to refresh my Indonesian teaching spirit (seeing a combined VCE class on the proposed timetable for next year had broken me, along with the combined Year 9-10 class we now have – and a Year 8 group this year, who would prefer to be on technology 24/7 than utilise language learning grey matter.) I also wanted to revise my grammatical understanding. It has been a few years…. since I have had formal grammar teaching, so I wanted to see what I knew and what had changed and where my gaps were. I was keen to explore nuances of words I take for granted, such as bagus, cantik, enak, mau, akan, hidup, tinggal and heaps more. Plus just update on all things Indonesian – politics, religion, teenagers, social media, and access to health services, water and environmental concerns…

All of this was achieved and more. I have pages and pages of grammar notes which I am going to frame and laminate. (These were written upside down by my talented teachers on small squares of butcher’s paper. I don’t know if anyone has seen upside down writing but it is an impressive skill!) I gained new perspectives on meN-, -kan and –i, not to mention ke-an and ter-. I finally broke through with the difference between peN-an and pe(r)-an. Transitive and Intransitive were the catch words of the grammar lessons and my own muddled grey matter began to untangle as I gradually gained a more solid understanding of these. And passive! (Not that their explanation of the third person form exactly aligns with expectations for VCE, but that’s another story.) I also found that there is a reason for many of the things I have been confused about – i.e. they are confusing! This was good to know.

During my two weeks, I was very thankful to have Bu Kirsten Stobbe from A.C.T. who was undertaking the course for very similar reasons to myself. We hung out during the breaks talking Indonesian teacher stuff and more. It was also special to have Bu Silvy’s school group come in for some language sessions over a couple of days. Those students really enjoyed their time at Realia.

My afternoons and evenings were taken up with a recovery swim in the little hotel pool, and solitary walks along a very non-solitary Jalan Malioboro – it was school mid-year holidays and bukan main ramainya! Occasionally, I typed up my course notes and did some homework. Okay, there was the odd bit of batik buying thrown in, and a massage or two… (highly recommend Saarah Day Spa – 350.000 for two and a half hours and a driver to pulang/pergi.) And bulk books bought for school from both Gramedia and a bookshop I stumbled across in Jalan Malioboro which was much cheaper than G and oleh-oleh for students and more.

Thank you so much, VILTA, for providing this scholarship. Included in it were two field trips. I got to choose! YayJ. So, I finally made it to Pantai Parangritis, driving through the sand dunes, stopping off at the newly built Geomaritime Science Park (modern interactive facility) and experiencing a very fresh seafood feast for lunch. Bu Fitri from Realia and her son, Akhbar were wonderful hosts on this trip. Bu Fitri also accompanied me to Taman Sari where I made my FIRST SUCCESSFUL BATIK EVER thanks to the assistance of artist, E Lek Iwon. I enjoyed the stroll through Taman Sari and the underground mosque. Having last been here in late 1979, there was quite a change to the condition of the pools in which the Sultan’s women enjoyed their swims. They have truly been restored to their former glory (the pools, not the women), so that I coule almost see the Sultan standing above, making his choice.

An eight-hour layover at Singapore Airport on my birthday on the way home was NOT a highlight, but it did make me appreciate all that had gone before. I highly recommend a refresher language course in Indonesia to anyone who is wanting to revise, refresh, recharge and rejuvenate if feeling a little lelah, lemah, letih, lesu in their teaching. On a Facebook group for Australian Indonesian teachers I see that someone wondered if a group of teachers would be interested in going over to undertake an immersion course; then noticed that WILTA does it. Would this be something VILTA could consider facilitating in the future? There was a lot of interest in the FB suggestion, including quite a few VILTA members.

I am re-enthused. I can’t wait to type up my pages and pages of notes, laminate the upside-down written grammar sheets and consider how to pass on my renewed enthusiasm for Bahasa Indonesia to those unsuspecting students.

Pengalaman ini sangat menyenangkan dan bermanfaat. Sebelumnya, saya kurang percaya diri tentang kemampuan saya berbahasa Indonesia. Sekarang, meskipun kesalahan saya masih banyak, pemahaman saya jauh lebih kuat. Juga, saya jatuh cinta dengan Kota Istimewa Yogyakarta.


by Jill Kube

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