Getting What You Want

Oh sweet success! Who would imagine what a thrill breakfast could be? I’ve been here three weeks and until now the first meal of the day has been a rotation of 1) scrambled eggs, toast, strawberry jam, and fruit, 2) omelete, toast, strawberry jam, and fruit, and 3) banana pancake and fruit. I shouldn’t complain. In Minnesota I ate steel cut oats and fruit 365 days a year and loved it! But here? I was beginning to see the months stretch out in endless repetition.

My first attempt at requesting a whole papaya, cut in half, skin on, and peanut butter for my toast turned out badly. I was served my regular breakfast but the bowl that usually included watermelon, pineapple, and banana had only chunks of papaya. A bubble of desperation formed in my throat. That afternoon I went to Ganesha Bookstore and bought an Indonesian Dictionary. As soon as I got home I looked up the words for butter and peanut. Selai kecang. Good. Moving right along I found words for papaya, skin on, cut in half, etc. etc. The complex mixture of consonants and vowels were baffling and overwhelming to me. I found Ketut in the garden, and with sign language and the dictionary I tried again. The next morning the egg was absent, and the papaya appeared in quarters, peeled, on a plate this time instead of a bowl, with toast and strawberry jam. We had gotten a teeny-tiny bit closer.

About that time the afternoon meals were encountering the same issues. I realized that if I wanted to enjoy the wonderful Balinese food that I love, I needed to accelerate the learning curve. I needed flash cards! On an outing to CoCo’s Supermarket, I found wooden ice cream spoons and began writing on them the new Indonesian words and phrases I was learning. Then I practiced, and practiced, and forced my atrophying brain to simply memorize all those unfamiliar sounds.

Studying my flash sticks.

Fortunately, Ketut is a willing tutor. Each morning I tried out my emerging language skills on his Balinese ears and noted the subtle corrections he made in my pronunciation. Sometimes he had to look at the Indonesian word I’d written to understand my version of it! Take for instance, peanut butter. I was pronouncing it see-lie ke-kang. The correct sounds are seh-lay ke-chang. No wonder it had not shown up with the toast! But I’m slowly making progress and he is getting steadily more adept at interpreting my pantomimes. Then this morning his patience and my persistence finally paid off!

Half a papaya with skin and toast with peanut butter!

Bliss! You cannot imagine my excitement and the expressions of gratitude I showered on poor Ketut in English and Indonesian and probably a little leftover Spanish that still hangs out in my memory banks. After I finished the delightful and long awaited breakfast I scurried off to CoCo’s Supermarket and snatched up four more packages of wooden ice cream spoons. Getting what you want, especially when it’s food, is a powerful motivator. Wasn’t it Pavlov…?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mary santiago
    Aug 08, 2012 @ 09:31:15

    Sherry, this is absolutely hilarious! I’m laying in bed in my robin egg blue bedroom staring up at my 100 year old ceiling covered with white wainscoting. your story was a delightful way to start the day!

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    Reply

  2. Diane Struble
    Aug 09, 2012 @ 00:26:03

    Your regular Balinese breakfasts sound heavently to me although I think that peanut butter addiction runs in the family. I love your spoons. Clearly provide “food” for thought.

    Like

    Reply

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