Thursday, 7 April 2011

Of low tech presentations and high expectations - Indonesia


I was delighted to be asked by my friends at OUP if I could help them out; so many times I have asked them to help us at Luna with presenters, events, materials etc that I was actually relieved I could return a well-overdue favour.

So I said “Yes, of course” before they explained what the favour was. Oli is a friend of mine, so he won’t be asking for anything too outrageous…

I write this from a bar (surprise!) in the departures area of Soekharno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta. I arrived here about 16 hours ago, having left home at 3am on Wednesday and flying via Singapore from Centrair in Nagoya. I love Singapore Airlines! Brilliant service, lovely food, gorgeous uniforms.

So what was the favour? They needed someone to come here and present about Cambridge ESOL examinations. All of the exams, and all of the papers. Their original presenter was no longer available ( I know what that is like) and they were stuck. So this morning I was picked up from my hotel before 6am (and breakfast) and driven an hour or so out of Jakarta-proper, to a very large school and a nice air-conditioned room where 43+ teachers were registered to hear FOUR presentations, back to back.

I had only finished writing the last one a few hours before having to leave; I hadn’t had time to practice with the Power Point I had hastily cobbled together. I had also had to prep and pack all the materials I need over the weekend in Osaka for two full days of examiner training. I was extremely unimpressed to get a call at the last minute trying to postpone that event, as I had spent the late nights after prepping my Indonesia presentations by working through my examiner updates online (being in a hurry seems to concentrate the mind nicely, as all my assessments were on the money).

On the flight I watched The King’s Speech, and sharing a name with our stuttering monarch I also understood his sense of dread about his forthcoming public performance.

I checked into the hotel after a nightmare drive through the ridiculous video game that is Jakarta traffic. Truly bonkers, near misses and polite toots of the horn the default setting. I’d missed dinner, but was tired enough duah Bintang = sleep. Bintang? Shares a trademark image with Sapporo Beer. Our first Bahasa word then: bintang = star.

Actually, Indonesian is a dead simple language, and I was remembering words from 20+ years ago all day. The guy driving me back to the airport said I had a very natural accent (think he was being very polite!). Signs everywhere I could read (unlike Japan) and start to understand. The city is a mass of humanity, people carrying on their daily lives literally everywhere. And a lot of people not apparently doing anything at all, lolling around in the shade or wearing uniforms and also lolling around in the shade!

I love Indonesia, and I always have (apart from the crass excuse that is Kuta Beach in Bali). The people are so genuinely cheerful and chatty, open and fun, I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to visit even if it is for such a short visit. I met some very nice teachers – and I hope they weren’t too critical of my pitch (I forgot where I was in my script, missed slides; forgot to review bits I really needed to highlight; I’d forgotten to attach speakers to my laptop for the speaking test; I misplaced my CD of one song I wanted to check the lyrics with; I couldn’t access the internet/only had one channel on the projector; I ended up having to sing a Frank Sinatra song as there was no cassette player available; my handout was too big for the recipient’s inbox and was not available to attendees until the very end; my ‘end’ was 10 minutes short and I had to waffle dreadfully….). I think OUP has some very nice staff here and that their distributor Limma is very professional. Good luck to both operations here, and if you’ll have me back, next time I hope I will be better prepared and less last-minute.

So I chance planes in Singapore at about 1am, and arrive in Osaka hours too early to do anything useful. “But I like it, how about you?” (Frank Sinatra still in my head!)