My walk to work every morning takes about 15 minutes. It’s about a mile of walking through the neighborhood and includes passing no less than four security checkpoints. These areas are for neighborhood safety patrols because everyone basically lives in “gated” communities…although they are not glamorous like what you would normally picture in the hills of California or other prestigious areas.
Anyway, since I walk every day (which is extremely unusual here), all the security guards know who I am and where I work. They are very nice guys who I always say hello and goodbye to along my journey.
The oldest security guard and I have a special bond. He has gentle eyes that squint against the sun and pretty white hair that shows beneath his cap. In all the times I’ve run into him, I’ve never seen him without a big smile across his face.
This is the only guard who I let give me a ride to the school, if he happens to be going that way on his rounds. On the back of a motorbike, the journey takes only about 2-3 minutes, so it is a nice gesture when he offers. But in those 2-3 minutes, an interesting situation occurs.
While on the back of his bike, this guard just talks and talks and talks…in Indonesian. I clearly only know enough Indonesian to get by in basic situations, so the nuances of chummy banter are absolutely lost on me. After about nine months of living in this particular neighborhood, all the security dudes should know my extremely basic Indonesian vocabulary, but this special guard loves to talk and talk and talk. I usually respond by nodding my head, saying yes or sometimes just giggling, knowing full well that this guy is having a conversation completely by himself.
Over the course of two years, this has happened a few times to me where the other person just wants to chat whether I can contribute or not. It used to pressure me a bit because I wanted very badly to join in, ask a question or add something of value. I don’t want to say I’ve given up necessarily, but I think I got to a point where I recognized my language ability wouldn’t develop fast enough for that to happen. Since that moment of realization, I started to enjoy just listening to how beautiful the language can be and how sometimes a smile can communicate everything you need.
The older security guard will still give me a ride every now and again, he will still smile and talk away, and I’ll still giggle in ignorance.