Watch Your Language


Today has nothing special. Life was passed as usual. Started by waking up in the morning with the sudden stomach sickness, turning on the water heater (it needs 15 minutes until we can call it warm) and preparing everything for office. Routines that I do everyday, even without having order from my brain, my body already knew what to do. It didn’t take a long time to prepare myself. I don’t know the reason, but since I moved to this continent (for temporary, not forever), I don’t really care about my appearance. I could come to my office without making over on my face. Even for the clothes. I really enjoy my casual clothes.

At 8 o’clock in the morning, I left my apartment and gave the nice smile and greet to Bebeto, our building guard. In my way to office, I passed some shops that have been opened and ready to find their luckiness. 5 minutes are time that I need to reach my office by walking. Since I work at the HQ, my recent apartment is the best place to stay where we can reach every area in walking distance.

“Bonjour, Mama. Comment ca va?” somebody greeted me. He is one of street boys that always stand in front of my gate office. I just nodded my head, too lazy to answer his greeting. I didn’t mean for being cruel. But if I answer him politely, he’ll follow me directly, ask about everything, and at the end, he’ll ask for money. Trust me. Being nice is not always right in Kinshasa.

I arrived in my office in the next three minutes. Jacques, my Congolese colleague was already there. He was busy with some daily workers, argued about something that I don’t understand (they were using French). No need to waste my time. I opened my computer (actually my new computer. CITS gave me the new one after my old machine was collapsed), read some emails and gave response directly to the urgent ones. A phone call was coming. It means problem. If you’re working as camp manager, when somebody give you a call, it means there is problem need to be solved. And, that was correct. Somebody tried to blame me for something that I don’t understand. Hearing complaining from someone is a very good way to start my day.

Another ring came from my desk phone. This time, it is not problem. It’s from Luna, my ex house mate. Pick up the phone, and started to speak with our beloved language. One advantage if you’re living in one place where nobody understands your language. You can speak about anything without feeling worry if somebody will hear what you’re talking about. Actually, this is what I want to share here. I have funny story, still related with language.

It’s still happened in the same day. After duty hour, I went back home. Oh damn. No electricity. It’s a common thing in Kinshasa. No electricity means no cooking, since all cook equipment here built by using electricity. I called Sari, my housemate to have dinner in Musafir, one of Indian Restaurant in Kinshasa. And this is my favorite one.

I ordered prawn noodle, the food that I can’t miss when I visit Musafir. During that time, I and Sari keep talking, as usual using our own language. After speaking English for whole day, using our mother tongue is the best way to relax our tongue. We talked about everything. Life, office, seghei (street kid), office trouble makers and many more. While we’re enjoying the food, one man faced Indian comes and takes a sit next to us. Ok. Before continue the story, I will explain a little bit about Musafir restaurant. All its interior walls covered by mirror. No matter where we sit, we can see all activities happened in the room.

I finished my meal when Sari called the waitress to ask the bill. I glimpsed to the mirror and found the Indian Guy looks at us seriously. I see to other side. As I said before, since all walls covered by mirror, no matter where I see, I still can see that Indian still look at us. Uncomfortable with this situation, I spoke to Sari, using our language, with a rather loud voice. I’m sure the Indian can hear what I said.

“Sari. What happened with that man. He look at us all the time,” I said by using my language.

“I don’t know. Just ignore him,” answered Sari.

“Yeah. It looks like there is something weird on our face,”

“Maybe he want to treat us,” said Sari by kidding.

“C’mon. If he wants to treat us, do it directly. Don’t look at us with that way,”

After finishing all payment, we left our table for going home. But something happened when we passed the table where the Indian guy sits. He gave us a  smile, and said, “Hi. Kamu dari Indonesia?”

Ohhh my Gosh. He speaks my language. It means he totally understood what I was talking about. Full ashamed, I couldn’t answer his questions, and even gave a word. I just let Sari to handle.

“How do you know?” asked Sari.

“I heard you speak. By the way, I’m Malaysian.”

No wonder. He comes from my neighbor country which using the same language with us. That’s a precious lesson for the future, to watch my language no matter where I go.     

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