in the 16 months that i’ve been traveling, i got ask this question a lot (and variations of it): where are you from? your english is very good, how did you learn it? no, i did not roll my eyes at them because frankly, i also don’t know. i’ve studied a 3rd language before, and i for one can say that studying it in a classroom definitely does not translate to having a good command of it.
but my idea of learning the fundamentals of a language still pretty much revolves around the classroom (yeah, i’m not creative like that). so i actually found it pretty refreshing that an english teacher from rantepao purposely brings his class at one of the tourist spots in the province so the kids can practice set phrases with foreigners (who, let’s be honest, are also not the best english speakers, but hey, we can all learn together).
and so amidst the graves of small babies laid to rest in an old tree’s bark, the children, armed with notebooks with english set phrases, energetically try to engage us tourists in small talk. most kids are enthusiastic about talking to us: i do not remember anyone who acted shy (they all jumped into the frame when i tried to take a picture with one of them). in fact, the teacher was just sitting at one corner, while his kids go on their merry way. i took this as a sign that they really wanted to learn. hopefully this translates to them eventually moving out of the standard introductory conversations. maybe at the end of the term they can be the ones telling the stories of the kambira baby graves.
i asked erwin what they story of the graves are. he mentioned that when babies die young (around 2 yrs old and younger) they place it on this tree (very informative). the practice has stopped because rantepao is a christian community, and priests frowned upon this practice (rantepao is one of the few places in indonesia that dutch missionaries were able to reach). but this place remains sacred to them because, torajans has a very…different view of their dead