An Indonesian Homecoming (Blog Hop Story)

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Kim walked into the shack and saw a toothless grin on the face of the old man staring back at her.

The old woman behind him started to laugh, rising from her chair.

“Selamat dating.  Selamat dating.”  [Welcome]

Kim smiled and fumbled with a worn phrase book.

She looked down at the scuffed wooden floor and spoke with great care. “Aki, Memanjakan.”   [Grandfather, Grandmother]

Kim bowed deeply.  She had imagined this scene countless times yet could not have prepared for the strange yet familiar sense of joy welling up inside her.

Kim thought of a verse she had learned in church –

“…the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Kim smiled through her tears, as her grandmother directed her to a chair before a table filled with food.

Cas.  Cas.”  [Eat.]

Together, they sat around the table and feasted on the rice and vegetables set before them.

Kim thought of a saying she once heard – “When you’re stuck with scarcity, binge on your blessings.”

Terima kasih.” [Thank you.], said Kim.

Her grandfather looked up from his bowl and spoke lovingly – “Cucu perempuan, terima kasih kembali”  [Grandaughter, you’re welcome.]

They ate in a comfortable quietness, serenaded by the soothing sound of grey-crowned babblers foraging around them.

Kim looked down at her bowl, then glanced at her grandmother and grandfather.  There was something she had to know, but she was afraid of what she might find out.  She looked at them with a tentative smile.  A bead of sweat fell from her grandfather’s brow.

Mana ibu?”  [Where is mother?”]

Her grandmother looked down at the wooden floor.  Her grandfather slowly rose to his seat.  He knelt beside Kim and started to speak, but then burst into tears.  He stepped out of the shack.

Apa memanjakan?”  [What, grandmother?]

Kim’s grandmother looked up.  Her face became stone stiff.

Prajurit!”

Kim fumbled quickly through her word dictionary to find the meaning – “Soldier”.

Apa Prajurit?”  [What soldier?]  Kim fumbled for the words.  Her grandmother sat silent beside her.  Kim feverously dug through the book.

Prajurit membunuh mana?”  [Soldier kill mother?]

Kim’s grandmother looked away.  A tear formed in her eye and struggled to be released.  She looked back at Kim and spoke slowly.

Tidak.   Ibu adalah seorang prajurit!”

Kim didn’t need her book to translate.  She could read her grandmother’s eyes.  Her mother had been the soldier.

She looked deeply into her grandmother’s eyes and felt a degree of sadness she had not thought possible.  She wanted to cry, but the burden was too heavy to be unleashed.

Her grandmother took her right hand and laid it on Kim’s cheeks.  Her stone face turned soft and she declared with a smile,

“Ibumu mata” [Your mother’s eyes.]

Kim smiled and as she did the tears flowed through her mother’s eyes.

Word Count: 466

14 thoughts on “An Indonesian Homecoming (Blog Hop Story)

  1. This was both beautiful and sad, Tony. It made me cry. I love how you worked in the foreign language with the translations… it gives the story a very authentic depth. I just love it! Well done. 🙂

  2. I could see the elderly couple and their granddaughter. I could hear them speak and feel every emotion. Beautifully written and the translated foreign language only added to it’s depth.

  3. Tony,
    That was superb! What a beautiful piece. Very powerful … & touching. So glad your on the blog hop.
    ~Christopher

  4. Hi Tony. I love this, so beautifully put together. The emotions came through. (Un)fortunately for both of us, I’m Indonesian. So.. while I appreciate you writing in my language, I found the foreign parts a bit of a hindrance, in my process of enjoying the story.

    Some of the words may be incorrect and the structure of the phrases unnatural, meaning, they are not written the way we (Indonesians) talk. But I may be incorrect and you use a local dialect correctly, which I’m not at all familiar with.

    Here are the words and their correct translations in EYD (Ejaan Yang Disempurnakan, literally: “Perfected—or improved—translation”):

    “Selamat dating” [Welcome]: selamat datang;

    “Aki, memanjakan” [Grandfather, grandmother]: kakek, nenek. Also, “memanjakan” means “to spoil”. “Aki” could be a local dialect, but I’m not sure. So I’m interested what tools you used in your translation;

    “Cas” [Eat]: makan. Again, “cas” could be a local dialect. Please excuse me if it is;

    “Cucu perempuan, terima kasih kembali” [Granddaughter, you’re welcome]: This sounds too stiff. The way we normally say it is “Terima kasih kembali, Cu”. “Cu” is the abbreviation for “cucu”, usually used in speech;

    “Apa memanjakan?” [What, grandmother?]: “Apa, Nek?” but again, this sounds too stiff so we usually say either “Ada apa, Nek?” [What’s up, Grandma?] or “Kenapa, Nek?”. The latter can be literally translated into [Why, Grandma?] but actually means the same as the former. “Nek” is the abbreviation to “Nenek” used in speech;

    “Prajurit membunuh mana” [Soldier kill mother?]: literally “Prajurit membunuh mama”. The “n” instead of “m” could be a typo. We usually say these types of phrases in passive voice instead, i.e. “Mama dibunuh prajurit?”;

    “Ibu adalah seorang prajurit”: it will sound more natural and flowing if you say “Ibumu seorang prajurit” [your mother (is) a soldier];

    “Ibumu mata”: the correct syntax is “mata ibumu”. We always place the possessive after the noun.

    Hope this helps and I’m not just another annoying grammar nazi.

    P.S. Out of curiosity, what made you write this? 🙂

    • Dear Sky,

      I really appreciate you commenting and correcting the Indonesian. I should have known that Google Translator (which I used) would be less than accurate.

      As for why I wrote this, when I saw the picture I just thought of Indonesia. I was a bit fearful, not knowing the culture, language, or history, but I thought I would take a stab at it. With your permission, I would like to go back and re-write the Indonesian language sections using your corrections. I will give you credit, of course. I think it would greatly improve the story.

      I would also be interested in hearing your response to the ending. Not knowing Indonesian history, I did not know if it might be possible for a woman to become a soldier or, if she did, how her parents might react. Is it believable, or too much of a stretch.

      Thanks again for writing in,

      Tony

      • Hi Tony, no problem at all. I think you captured the spirit of family really well—and it is an important part of our culture. I also love the theme: a girl separated from her (biological) family, her roots, for whatever reason.

        I think there are a lot of Indonesians who can relate to that; my friends in Belgium for example, whose parents were born in Indonesia but moved here and gave birth to them here. They don’t even speak Indonesian and know even less of the culture. Or maybe children who are adopted..

        While it is possible for women to become a soldier, it’s not very common. I honestly don’t know how parents might react because it depends on the situation and local traditions—which there are many.

        Generally it is still expected of women that they are feminine, soft in conduct and in speech, etc. Especially in rural areas and in communities where Islam is strictly practiced. But then again, most of Indonesian female soldiers wear a jilbab, so I think anything goes in a fictional account.

        So, your story is definitely plausible, don’t worry. 🙂

      • Of course, Indonesia has not been in a war for a long time (thank God) so, unlike the US, parents there don’t have to face caskets returning from the battlefield. Our latest battle dates from.. the 70’s, I think.

        But don’t take my word for it, history has not been my greatest subject in school. I don’t know if women participated in the army back then or, by extension, to die in battle.

        Sorry I can’t be of much help.

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