Friday, August 25, 2006

More proverbs, and some answers

"A monkey from the forest is nursed instead": scary monkey ride from the forest of the Blok M shopping mall

So I asked my Indonesian teacher, Ninit, about the mystery of "teacher pees standing" (see below). She furrowed her brow and said she'd never really thought about it before.

"Well, think!" I snapped. After all, what greater gift can a teacher receive than a student's encouragement?

Ninit thought, and finally said maybe it was more a matter of location than style: that if the teacher went around relieving himself any old where, the students would adopt even worse behaviors.

That seemed plausible, but not altogether convincing, so I went to my source: my friend Bruce at the Post, who speaks excellent Indonesian and is plugged in to the community.

Bruce conjectured that when answering nature's call outdoors, men were supposed to crouch in order to protect their modesty. That sounded more like it. But then he called a friend and came back with what I consider to be the definitive answer:

In much of Indonesia, squat toilets are the norm. This presents, shall we say, a challenge to the aiming abilities of a standing man. Throw in the fact that much of the population is Muslim, and thus pretty meticulous about staying clean for daily prayers, and standing while relieving oneself becomes uncouth.

So there we have it! although I'm open to other explanations if anyone has a better one.

Meanwhile, here are a few more handy sayings:

Bagai telur diujung tanduk.
Like an egg on the tip of a horn." An evocative description of someone or something in a tenuous position.

Gajah bertarung lawan gajah, pelanduk mati di tengah-tengah.
"When elephants wage war, deer die in their midst." When those in power fight, it's the little guy who gets hurt - a phenomenon all too many Indonesians (and Americans, for that matter) have experienced.

Anak dipangku dilepaskan, beruk di rimba disusukan.

"A child on the lap is let go, a monkey from the forest is nursed instead."
OK, so this one's pretty weird too. Apparently it just describes a change in priorities.

Ada gula, ada semut.
"Where there's sugar, there's ants." My first proverb, and an easy one to memorize and say: AH-da GOO-la, AH-da se-MOOT. Appropriate when your officemates swarm a plate of free sandwiches, or when everybody sucks up to the boss around performance-review time .


michele said...

hey t - love the proverbs! I still don't get the teacher peeing one, even your explanations elude my understanding. but the mystery is part of why proverbs are such fun.

my guess is that the teacher peeing actually represents the height of peeing capabilities. maybe he is so accurate (he is a teacher/master after all) that his is the pinnacle of proper peeing technique. clean and precise. the lowly students are still learning and don't know what they're doing, thus the chaotic running while peeing.

yeah, still doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense.

please write about proverbs again at some future point.

more proverbs!!!

kopisusu2 said...

Yeah, the students peeing while running still doesn't make any sense to me. I like your idea about superior technique, but I think the issue of splashiness is still troublesome. Perhaps we should call an international conference on this ...

There's another version that goes, "the teacher eats while walking, the student pees while running." That one, I think, leaves less ambiguity. But it makes me feel self-conscious about eating while walking, which, as a tried and true American, I simply can't give up!