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Bum Soup...?

A story of Bahasa Indonesia... as it is spoken.

Married to Indonesians, my brother and I both speak reasonable "getting around" Bahasa, but lose a lot of the meanings in conversations. Our wives speak good English.

When we are with their families we are left out in the cold, as they all mumble away in a language designed for slow drawl mumblers - Bahasa Jawa. Hence much of our language education came from taxi and becak drivers.

As children in New Zealand a midwinter treat was oxtail soup (Soto Buntut). Imagine our surprise when we found it to be a regular dish at the umah makan (restaurant) in a tropical country.

One day, tripping around Java, we stopped off at a famous nameless restaurant accompanied by several business associates and their families. My Brother decided to proudly display his three months of Indonesian studies and asked our guests if he could order the meal.

A liveried waiter stood, memory poised, "Saya Minta Soto Pantat, for all orang". Stony Indonesian faces and their bodies slowly jellied into laughter and guffaws were heard from the other tables and kitchen all evening.

We were all served Soto Buntut, except for my brother, who was served a soup made with chicken bums floating in it. (That night meals for our party became no charge).

Later his pacar (girlfriend) explained to him the difference between pantat and buntut. Ten years later we walked into the same restaurant and were automatically served with the now famous Bum Soup.

Who says Indonesians have no sense of humour?

© rubbertree