"Will you be our Uni?"
Oct 26, 2009
|Striking gold on my first couch surfing attempt, I decided to try my luck again. This time on the island of Sumatra.
Two, for the price of one, Linda and her twin sister Lina, entered my life.
After only knowing each other three and half minutes, the twins posed a question. A question of such a caliber that it would change my life and theirs forever. "Will you be our Uni?"
What is a Uni? Well, their first explanation went something like this; "An uni is an older sister."
An older sister? No problem, I'll act like an older sister. It was not until the shrills of joy following my consent that I began seriously questioning what the heck I agreed to.
In the local Padang Language, "uni" ("ooo-knee") may translate to "older sister" but what it really means is a younger sisters idol, life force, and reason for being. Their every action would now be dedicated to me and my happiness.
To help further understand the intensity or our sisterhood, the girls dedicated Bryan Adams classic song, "Just call my name and I'll be there" to summarize their undying commitment to me.
"Uni, I want to give you everything". "Anything you need Uni, I will buy for you." Right down to bus fare and bottled water, I did not pay for a thing while in Padang. Scornfully cast down, my efforts to pay were considered impolite in Padang culture (but more so, in their personal culture).
So, I figured, if they weren't going to let me pay, then I wasn't going to give them much to pay for. Wrong. They saw right through that act. Proceeding to buy me unnecessary snacks, souvenirs, and copious amounts of bottled sweet tea.
I could barely move without one of the girls coming to my assistance. Very sweet at first, but seriously, I do not need help going to the bathroom.
This extreme attentiveness especially applied in the kitchen. Not allowed to lift a finger, for fear of the, "In my culture, that is impolite" speech, I would instead sit, relax and drink tea. And that was just lunch and dinner. Breakfast I was never awake for anyways because preparations assumed before 7 am. Spicy noodles or pacil (spicy peanut curry with potatoes and noodles) served with piping hot ginger tea appeared at the end of my bed mat every morning at 7:30 am sharp. Again, the gesture was more then kind, but after just opening my eyes in a pool of my own nights sweat, spicy noodles and hot tea were not exactly what I craved.
A final gesture included nightly Bahasa Indonesia lessons. Who knew a language such as Indonesian, could be, in theory, so simple. Past, present and future verb tenses are all the same, no articles, and no verb, "to be". Now, if only I could pronounce my "ng"'s correctly. "NNNNgggg", nnnnGGGGG.
And after all of this, not even a thank you was necessary. Actually, a "thank you" was the worst thing I could say. Appreciation or praise of any kind for their efforts was not acceptable. I was their uni and their job was to take care of me.
So, I couldn't pay for anything, I couldn't do anything remotely strenuous and I couldn't say 'thank you'. Talk about a difference in culture.
Linda and Lina's kindness and generosity exceeded anything I could have expected (let alone wanted or needed). An act that carried even more weight considering they did not have much to give.
Terima Kasih Sayangku!!