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Funny Sections with the Professors

In February 2018, I worked as an interpreter for an early childhood education expert from Köln, Germany. We also work with two professors from Hamburg, Germany and we all got along very well. I got not only the togetherness, but also some hilarious memories. Well, being with foreigners, of course you’ll find some cute things that you’d find funny 😂 .

Here we go.

In our first work day, we had lunch together. We had fried rice, chicken and stuff. We enjoyed our meals but Herr U (one of the professor) also said, ‘the weather is nice. I actually don’t need lunch. Drinking juice is enough for me.’ Well we all like to drink juice during lunch. And they indeed seemed to be don’t need proper meal for lunch. They ate good food only in the morning and or in the night. Their digestive system changed that way as long as they stayed in Indonesia. For me as an Indonesian, having only juice for lunch wouldn’t be enough  😂.

In my second day working with Frau B, I found something funny. We went to a nearby restaurant to have lunch. But there was neither traffic light nor zebra cross when we wanted to cross the road. So I was just ask her to cross the road with me, because it’s not really a problem here to cross the road just like that.

But Frau B was so afraid that a car would bump to her so I convinced her that we could just cross the road and all cars and motorcycles would just be slower or stop themselves. But still, she was scared, so when we crossed the road, she ran quickly to avoid the cars 😂 I was left alone behind, smiling and walking slowly.

Then on the way back from lunch, I suddenly found a zebra cross not far from the place we crossed before. So I asked her to come with me to the zebra cross and she said, ‘people are using zebra cross too here? I thought this was just a decoration!’ 😂

Another funny thing is that she prefers noodle over rice. For me it’s funny because noodle, especially instant noodle is not a good choice for meal. It's not healthy. But she ordered noodle all the time. Even in the zebra cross story above, she had chicken soup with noodle. Well she liked it. But it seemed just strange to me. No one eats such soup with noodle here. 

So as far as I know, in case of Indonesian noodles, she had enjoyed the taste of mie ayam, bakmie, mie goreng, bihun goreng and instant noodle. She is truly a noodle lover.


When we were discussing the childhood education curriculum, I showed her the courses and she was really surprised when I told her that there’s an epistemology philosophy in the courses’ list. She asked me completely startled, ‘why would the students learn it? It has nothing to do with the childhood education.’ Well I don’t know, I said, that’s what’s written here. I showed her all the courses and she said again, ‘there would be no such course in Germany in the childhood education’s curriculum,’ it was when I pointed out the courses of entrepreneurship. I told her that I had that course too and that this course is being taught in all departments in Indonesian universities because our minister wants us to be entrepreneurs and make job vacancies as much as possible and not stuck to work as employees. But no, she said, there’s no such course in Germany that has nothing to do with the department. Well.

Other funny things happened when we wanted to have lunch together. On the way to the restaurant, Frau P kept talking about such special mysterious banana dish that we should try because she likes it so much. Frau B and Herr U love it so much too, she said. She even wanted to give her half portion to me 'cause she wanted me to taste it. 

When our dishes came, I was surprised that the super special bananas she talked about so much on the way: were actually pisang goreng. Pisang goreng is banana fritters and is a typical indonesian snack. The banana covered with wheat flour that was mixed with sugar and a bit salt, and then fried. Pisang goreng is a very simple food and loved by everyone.


The restaurant where we ate, they served the banana fritters beautifully: with a bit of ice cream, syrup, chocolate milk and a half of cherry. One portion consisted of two slices of pisang goreng and costed expensive for such pisang goreng. I used to ask my mom to make pisang goreng for me and she’d cook me delicious banana fritters in a huge amount of it because it's so cheap... and she always wanted me to finish it all 😂.

What I found funnier was that the banana fritters we ate together were eaten by using a knife and a fork. It’s actually normal for westerners to eat something with knives and forks, but seeing pisang goreng being eaten that way made me want to laugh. I found it very hilarious. We Indonesian usually eat pisang goreng right away with our bare hands. And no topping or anything as addition for the banana fritters serving. Looking at how my friend and Frau P enjoying their pisang goreng, they looked like they were having steak 😂 how funny.

We, Indonesian, always call everyone by their first names. Not even once we call someone by their last names. Last names play no role here. So when these German professors came, everyone addressed them Professor or Prof, and of course, automatically, we call them by their first name as well. So it’s like Professor T, for Professor TU. Professor S for Professor SP.

I found it normal to see Indonesian professors called by their first names. But I found it funny when it came to foreigners because of the different culture in addressing someone. For them, the title ‘Professor’ should actually be combined with last name. But fortunately the professors didn't mind about it at all. 

The case was different for Frau B. Frau B’s first name was a bit hard for Indonesian to pronounce. So they called her by her last name. But Frau B’s last name is a hyphenated surname, like Tim Brooke-Taylor’s name. But they don’t know that her last name is a double-barrelled name so they address her ‘Professor + the second last name.’ It’s like calling Tim Brooke-Taylor as Professor Taylor.

Other problems came with the letter ‘H.’ Frau B’s and Herr U’s last names contain the letter ‘H’ in the middle of their names which in German shouldn’t actually be read. I told this to everyone but they didn’t really get it. I was tired correcting them to call Frau B’s last name correctly, so I let them call her just how they wanted. It was actually wrong but Frau B didn’t mind anyway.

Different letter problems happened to Frau P. Everyone called her Professor Susan instead of [Zuzanne], the correct pronunciation. And Frau P thought that my name was written as ‘Alphi’ and Frau B wrote Enda for Endah, our another interpreter. So much stories for letters 😂.

I once told Frau B that Indonesian strawberries are small and seriously sour. She asked, ‘really?’ yeah, I said. ‘You can try it.’ And then when we had dinner together, there was a small strawberry in the top of our dessert. I offered her whether she wanted to taste it, she refused it, I think it was because she didn’t want to taste such sour taste. And instead, she asked me to eat it. So I ate it and I frowned as soon as I got that sour taste, gosh! Frau B paid attention to me since the very beginning and she laughed brightly as she saw me with that sour-expression.


In the morning, when we were on the way to campus she told me, ‘Alvi you were right! I found a strawberry in my fruit salad this morning and then I remembered you. I thought I should taste it to get to know how sour it is. So I tasted it. It was totally sour!’

We’re still talking about foods. I spent most of my time with Frau B because I was her interpreter. Every time we visit a place to see someone or a group of people, they were always welcome us with a great hospitality, and, of course, many snacks. And just how it usually happened especially in Java island, guests were supposed to enjoy the foods and drinks. Well I enjoyed it. I liked it, why would I not taste any of it.

But it was a different case for Frau B. She refused those welcoming-foods. She said, ‘there were always foods wherever we go. I can’t eat that much,’ or ‘I’m really full’ or ‘I’m going to have dinner soon, I can’t eat now.’ She found it uncommon, to find too many foods and should at least taste it wherever she found it. “In Indonesia I eat too much,” she said. “Normally I don’t each this much in Germany.” She told me, even for dinner at home she eats only a slice of bread.


One day we bought foods to go. We wanted to enjoy our meals in the office. We got mie ayam from a stand and then we went to buy a dragon fruit juice for her and an avocado juice for me. I took our mie ayam with me in one hand and our juices in the other hand. But right away Frau B asked me to give her the juices, I answered, ‘it’s okay, I can take it,’ but she replied cheerfully, ‘no, let me take it. I need an interpreter, not a servant.’ 😂Then I gave her our juices, although I didn’t mind at all taking all of our stuff. 

On the day where Herr U should go to the airport to go back home, we gathered in the lobby and waited for a lectuter who wanted to bring us to the airport. Then suddenly Herr U stood up and started to look for something. He seemed serious. So we asked him, ‘what’s wrong?’ He said that he was looking for something. Then he walked away and looked for his thing by himself. He started to ask the receptionist and went back and forth here and there. We asked him again, ‘what happened? What are you lookin for?’ He only answered that he lose something that he brought just some minutes ago. ‘Maybe it’s still in your room,’ we replied. But no, he said. ‘It was with me not long ago. I took it here by myself.’ He looked restless. He sweated and his face reddened. We asked him again, ‘what is it actually? Is it important?’ No, it’s nothing. It’s not important at all, he said. But it was with me some minutes ago and now I lost it.

We were helpless. We didn’t know what was it or how it looked like, so we couldn’t find it everywhere. But he kept looking for it and became more and more restless and kept saying that it was nothing, we had no idea why wouldn’t he tell us what it was. He said, ‘there were thousand people here some mins ago, so maybe someone accidently took it.’ I told him, ‘it might be actually inside your bag.’ But he said, ‘no, there’s no more space available in the bag, that’s why I kept it in the paper-bag and hold that paper-bag with my hand.’

Some minutes later, a receptionist came and gave him the thing he was lookin for fidgetly. It was in the room, said the receptionist. Herr U surprised and said, ‘I thought I brought it here already!’

In the car on the way to the airport, we chatted together. When we were almost arrive, Herr U took a paper bag and said, ‘I have something. This is the last gift from me. It’s not something special, but it’s my favorite thing from Hamburg. You can have it on the way back.’


On the way back, we opened his last gift and it was chocolate. Then I realized, the gift was actually the thing that uneasily he looked for in the lobby. He looked for it fidgetly as if he lost his passport. He kept saying that it was nothing but couldn’t stop search for it restlessly. I told myself, so Herr U, this was what made you restless, you thought you lost your last little sweet gift for us, you didn’t want to lose it, you wanted us to have it. How sweet... We’re touched. Thanks!


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