Some bus drivers would smile and utter a greeting in return on certain days. Most of the time, it was like talking to the wall, as they’d just look through the windshield or, worse,  gawp as if they were in pain.  Taxi drivers were a different lot altogether. Majority were loquacious, enquiring about your profession, sharing their gripes on the lack of passengers or just poppycock. That time a girlfriend of mine dropped me off at Cavenagh Garden the cabbie was narrating his cab adventures in Tokyo that burned a hole in his wallet. Readily jumping into one from the airport to his hotel in downtown Tokyo, he was unprepared for the bill. He hadn’t reckoned the propinquity of cab rates between Singapore and Tokyo, which spanned the breadth of heaven and earth.

Greeting people was completely different in Escondido Village in Palo Alto, California. Drivers of the Marguerite, red vans that ferried people around Stanford campus and up to the mall, were more than forthcoming in their demeanor. You were in for some jokes, witty banter and general friendliness. Same thing with the service staff of the Stanford bookstore who’d even ask about the book you were purchasing. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the gemutlich reaction of the manager at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf outlet at Suria KLCC was a welcome respite from the stoic reception in similar cafés in Singapore.

Such display of bonhomie has been paraded before me ever since I landed in Bekasi, Indonesia, a suburb outside Jakarta where Global Prestasi – National-Plus School is located. While majority of the teacher and administrative staff were more adept in speaking in Bahasa Indonesia, their gemutlich disposition shone through despite struggling to translate what they wanted to convey in English. It’s all in the smile that emanates from the core of their being, which exudes pure affability, and comes right through the eyes. Never has the aphorism “eyes are the mirror to one’s soul” been vividly concretized than in that friendly smile one pleasantly stumbles upon at the crack of dawn.

“Good morning, Ms,” is the first greeting I hear the moment I step out of my apartment. It’s one of the maintenance crew doing their rounds early in the morning before classes begin.

“Good morning, Ms”, says the head of security, as I make my way to my office on the second floor of the Junior High School building before the flag ceremony at 7am.

“Good morning, Ms,” greets this young woman who brings me my glass of water in the morning. Mid-morning, she’s back with a tray of doughnuts – possibly from the ubiquitous J Co – asking me which one I would like – strawberry, chocolate or vanilla – with that genial smile again.

“Hello, Ms,” calls out one of the students as he makes his way from one class to another.

A choir of “Good morning, Ms” resonates through the classroom as the students arrive for their English lesson. And, like chorus of a song, it repeats throughout the day without losing its essence.

“Good morning, Ms. Here’s your bag,” says a colleague and, with a wide smile, hands me a green Kerokee bag replete with white board markers, pens, erasers (pencil and whiteboard), puncher, mini stapler and a box of staple wire.

“Good morning and you have a good day,” I counter with a big grin.

It’s a very good morning indeed in Bekasi.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Grumphy elephant on August 5, 2009 at 3:30 am

    i learn a new word from your blog “gemutlich” which according to The Free Dictonary is “Warm and congenial; pleasant or friendly”. ohhhhh
    It’s origin :
    [German, from Middle High German gemüetlich, from gemüete, spirit, feelings, from Old High German gimuoti, from muot, mind, spirit, joy; see m-1 in Indo-European roots.]
    But do you pronounce gemutlich??


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